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I. My FittST Impressions 9 

II. Mt First Imprkssioxs {coniiim^d). ... 28 

III. My First Iuprkssions {cowtinutd) . . 52 

IV. My First Impressions (continued). ... 72 
V. My First Month in the Contict Prison . . 94 

VI. My Fibst Month in the Pbugn . . .110 

'^.j,^ VII. I KAKS New Friends — Fbtr'Sff . . 128 - 

VIIL Louka's History !45 - 

IX. IssAi FoMiTCH — I take A Bath — Bakloushin s Tale 151 

X. Christmas Day 174 

XI. Private Theatricals 195 

XII. The Hospital 217 

XIII. The Hospital (coniinHed) 235 

XIV. The Hospital (continued) 251 

XV. Ako6l'xa'8 Husband (a Tale) .273 


XVn. OuB Pbt8 810 

XVIII. The Mutint . 823 

» ' . . '■ . ' 

XIX. The Escape . . . ' . . 388 . 

IT * Vt^-w XX. I Leatb toe Prison 354 



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1 • 







In some distant nooks of Siberia, hidden away among 
steppes, mountains, or wild woods, there are small 
towns, numbering perhaps not more than two thousand 
inhabitants, with their unpretending wooden houses 
and one or two churches, one in the town and the other 
in the cemetery outside. They are more like large vil- 
lages than like towns. They are inhabited principally 
by Ispravniks, Tchinovniks, and a host of subaltern 
official^ of various degrees aud classes, for in spite of 'a 
the cold climate Siberia is a nice snug place to live 
in, as the people are very simple-minded and con- 
servative, innovations are abhorred, and things go on 
much in the same way as they did two hundred years 
ago. The Tchinovniks represent the Siberian aristo- 
cracy ; they are partly Siberian by birth, partly Rus- 
sians who have been tempted by the prospect of a 
... higher salary and the possibility of making in a 

comparatively short time a nice little fortune which 
^ may enable them to substitute the attractions of . 






^St»~ Petersburg or Moscow for the simpler and far 
more patriarchal mode of living in Siberia. But 
not everyone who goes there for a time likes to settle 
there for ever* There are some fortunate individuals 
who have learned the great secret of satisfactorily 
solving the riddle of life, and they are sure to make 
Siberia their home, knowing that their attachment 
to it will in due time bring forth good fruit. But 
others, who are of a more restless disposition, soon 
get tired of Siberia, and moodily ask themselves 
what could possibly have brought them to it. They 
look forward impatiently to the end of their three 
years' service, when they immediately apply for 
another post in Bussia, and go back to their own 
country, where they grumble at Siberia and ridicule 
it to their heart's content. They are wrong, for 
after all Siberia is a pleasant country to live in ; 
the climate is excellent, and there are many rich 
and hospitable merchants and wealthy foreigners 
scattered about the different towns and settlements. 
The young ladies bloom like roses, and their morals 
are excellent. Wild ducks, partridges, and game of 
all kinds fly about in the streets. In some places 
the soil brings forth fifbeenfold. In short it is a 
blessed country, but the difficulty is to know how to 
enjoy it. 

In one of these gay and self-satisfied little towns, 
with its kind-hearted inhabitants whom I shall never 
forget, I made the acquaintance qf Alexander Petr6- 
vitch Gorylintdiikoff. By birth a Bussian noble- 
man, he had been sentenced to penal servitude 
for ten years for murdering his wife, and after the 

■> K 


^r> vv 


expiration of his term had been sent to the convict 

colony in K for the remainder of his days. That 

is to say, he really belonged to a convict colony at 
some distance from the town, but had been permitted 

to reside in K , where he eked out a small living 

by teaching Frencli, etc. It is by no means an un- 
usual thing for convict settlers to take to teaching 
in Siberian towns, where, very probably, French, as 
well as many other branches of education, would be 
unknown but for them. I met Alexander Petrovitch 
for the first time at the house of a worthy, hospitable 
old Tchinovnik, Ivan Ivanovitch Gvosdikoff, who had 
five highly-gifted daughters, to whom Alexander 
Petrovitch gave lessons four times a week for the 
sum of thirty copecks a lesson. He was a striking- 
looking young man, not older, apparently, than 
thirty-five, small and puny, with an exceedingly pale 
face, always scrupulously clean and neat in his dress. 
If you addressed him he fixed his eyes on your face 
attentively, and kept them there while you spoke, 
as if he were trying to discover soine hidden meaning 
in every word you uttered, or as if he suspected you 
of endeavouring to get at his most intimate thoughts. 
His answers were always clear and short, but every 
word seemed to have been so carefully weighed and 
considered, that you could not help feeling rather 
uncomfortable while the conversation lasted, and 
relieved when it was over. I at once asked Ivan 
Ivanytch about him. He told' me that Alexander 
Petr6vitch was a very well-educated man, and . a 
p^ect -gentleman in his manners and behaviour, 

B 2 


else he woald not have asked him to teach his 
daughters, but that he was a great misanthrope, and 
though he was considered very clever, and had read 
a great deal, he hardly ever spoke to any one, and it 
was most difficult to draw him into conversation* 
There were some people who even suspected him of 
being mad, but they would hardly have found fault with 
him for that. He was a great favourite with many of 
the best families in the place, and might have made 
himself very useful by writing petitions, etc. It was 
generally believed that he belonged to a good old 
Russian family, and that he had many friends and 
relations still living ; but he had resolutely broken 
off all communication with them. His history was 
well known. He had murdered his wife in a fit of 
jealousy, and immediately given himself up to the 
police. (This had considerably mitigated his sen- 
tence). Such crimes are never judged harshly in 
Siberia, but rather looked upon as an unfortunate ac- 
cident which ought to be pitied and regretted rather 
than punished. Still, this strange man persisted in 
keeping aloof from everybody, and only left his house 
to go to his lessons. I paid little attention to him 
at first, but gradually began to feel a stronger interest 
in him. There was something indescribably myste- 
rious about the man. It was next to impossible to 
carry on a conversation with him. He always made 
a point of answering my questions as if he considered 
this his first duty, but somehow or other I never cared 
to go beyond our first exchange of questions and 
answers. I rananber walking home with him firom 
the house of Ivan Ivanytch one fine sunmier evening. 





Avhen it suddenly came into my head to ask him to 
come in and have a cigar in my room. I shall never 
forget the look that came into his face. His usual 
self-possession seemed to have left him at once ; he 
muttered a few incoherent words, looked angrily at 
me, then, to my great astonishment, suddenly darted 
across the street and disappeared. From that time 
he always looked frightened whenever we met. Stu- 
pidly enough I still persisted in my efforts to become 
more intimate with Alexander Petrovitch, for he at- 
tracted me wonderfully. One fine day, perhaps a 
month after our little adventure, I called on him on 
my way home from the post-office. He lived some- 
where on the outskirts of the town, in the house of 
an old woman, whose family consisted of a consump- 
tive daughter and her illegitimate child, a pretty 
little girl about ten years old, whom I found sitting 
^ in Alexander Petrovitch's room. He was teaching her 

to read. My unexpected entrance seemed to startle 
him as much as if I had caught him in the act of 
committing some fearful crime. He j umped up from 
his chair and stared at me for a few minutes before 
he had regained his self-possession sufficiently to ask 
me to sit down ; and when we both sat down at last, 
he kept watching every one of my looks as if he sus- 
pected them to be fraught with some mysterious 
meaning. I understood why the people thought he 
was mad. No one in full possession of his senses 
could have shown his suspicions so plainly. He 
r^;arded me steadCeuitly with an expression of hatred 
'*' in his face, as much as to say, ^When will you 

begone ? ' I tried to talk about our town and the 


latest gossip ; he remaioed silent, and only smiled 
viciously. I soon found out that he not only knew 
nothing of the current news, but did not even wish 
to know them. Once, but only once, I saw a new 
light come into his eyes when I offered to lend him 
some of the books and magazines which I had just 
brought from the post-office. He looked wistfully 
at them, but refused my offer, saying he had no time 
for reading. Wlien at last I left him I felt as if a 
heavy burden had been removed from my heart, and 
I could not help feeling vexed with myself for having 
intruded upon the solitude of a being whose whole 
aim was to keep away from everybody. I had seen 
hardly any books in his room, so that the people 
must have been mistaken when they spoke of his 
reading much. Once or twice driving past his 
window late at night, I saw a light in the room. 
What could he be doing at that time of night? 
Could he be writing something? And if so, what 
was he writing ? Circumstances obliged me to leave 
the town for three months, and when I came back in 
the winter I found that Alexander Petrovitch had 
died in the autumn. He died as he had lived, alone, 
and refusing to see even a doctor. He was nearly 
forgotten in the town, and his room stood empty. I 
at once called on his landlady, hoping to find out 
from her what he had been doing and whether he 
had left any writings. For twenty copecks she 
brought me a whole basketful of papers which had 
belonged to him, and confessed that she had already 
torn up two bundles of papers. She was a surly, 
tadtum old woman, who could or would give me 


« < 


little information beyond what I knew already. She 
told me that her lodger hardly ever opened a book 
sometimes for months together, but that she would 
often hear him pacing up and down in his room for 
whole nights — thinking, she supposed, or talking to 
himself. He had been very fond of her granddaughter 
Katya, especially since he had learned that her name 
was Katya, and every year on St. Catherine's day he 
had had a mass read for the repose of somebody's soul. 
He hated callers, and never went out except to his 
lessons. He had even scowled at her when she had 
come once a week into his room to dust it, and had 
hardly exchanged a word with her during the three 
years he had lived in her house. I asked Katya 
if she remembered her old master. She did not 
answer me, but turned her face to the wall and 
burst out crying. So this strange man had been 
loved after all. 

• I took the papers home and spent a whole day 
looking over them. Three-fourths of them were 
worthless scraps, old copies evidently taken from 
copying-books, etc., but I discovered among them a 
voluminous unfinished manuscript-book which had 
perhaps been forgotten by its author. It contained 
the history of Alexander Petr6vitch's ten years of 
penal servitude, and had apparently been jotted down 
at various times and seasons without any attempt at 
order or chronology. Occasionally his tale was in- 
terrupted by some other story, or by some weird, 
horrible memories which he seemed to have been 
compelled by some unknown power to write down. 
I read these latter over several times; there could 


hardly be any doubt as to their having been com-^ 
posed by a madman. But the memoirs of his convict 
life did not seem to me altogether void of interest. 
A new world, the very existence of which I had never 
even suspected hitherto, suddenly dawned upon me ; 
and I read with interest many curious things about 
the people whom we are accustomed to call the scum 
and outcasts of the world. Perhaps I was mistaken 
in supposing that other people might feel not less 
interested in these memoirs than I was. I will leave 
it to my readers to judge. 



1 , ♦. ■ ■■«. '» 


•^ • Vt 



OuK prison was situated on the outskirts of the for- 
tress, and almost immediately above the rampart. 
I used often to look through the chinks in the fence 
and try and catch a glimpse of the wide world be- 
yond. But all I could see was a little piece of the 
sky and the high grassy rampart where the sentinels 
walked to and fro day and night. And then I used 
to wonder how often during the long years that lay 
before me I should creep to the fence and peep 
through the holes and see the same sentinels and 
the same rampart and the same little bit of blue 
sky, which, strange to say, did not seem to belong 
to that sky which we could see from our prison, but 
rather to some other sky that was far away from us^ 
and under which free people lived. 

The courtyard was very large — two hundred feet 
long and one hundred and fifty wide. It formed an 
irregular hezangle, and was surrounded by a higb 
fence made of posts pointed at the top. They had- 
been rammed deep into the ground, and stood so 
close that they nearly touched each other. Across 
the posts broad planks had been nailed to make the 



■ t 

fence still more solid. This was the outer bulwark 
of the convict prison. An opening had been left for 
the« gates in one of the sides of the hezangle. They 
were very strong, and always kept locked and 
watched night and day by the sentinels. The only 
time when they were unlocked was when the convict 
prisoners left the prison to go to their work. Be- 
yond those gates was the fair free world where the 
people might do as they listed. But to us who 
lived on this side of the fence that world seemed as 
unreal as a weird fairy tale. For we lived in our 
4>wn world, which was unlike anything we had ever 
heard or seen ; we were ruled by our own laws, wore 
A peculiar garb, and had peculiar customs and habits. 
Our dwelling-place was not unlike a huge grave 
where living people had been buried; and I am 
going to describe to you this abode. 

The first thing that meets your eye on entering 
the courtyard are several buildings. On either side 
of it is a long one-storied house — these are the bar- 
racks where the prisoners live. The furthermost 
end of the yard is occupied by a similar building. 
This is the kitchen, which is divided among two 
<irt&$. A fourth edifice contains the cellars, store- 
rooms, wood sheds, etc. The central part of the 
yard forms a very large square, where the convicts 
assemble when the roll is called, morning, noon, and 
night, and occasionally several times in the course of 
the day, if the warders suspect mischief or are un- 
able to count quickly. Between the buildings and 
the fence is a large empty space which was the 
&vouiite resort of some convicts, who liked to come 




,v- . > 


here in their leisure hours, where they were hidden 
from all eyes, and could indulge in their own sad 
thoughts. Often, when I happened to meet them 
on those solitary walks, I would look into those 
gloomy faces, marked with the brand of eternal 
shame, and wonder what they could be thinking 
about. There was one of them, who spent all his 
leisure in counting the posts of the fence. There 
were fifteen hundred posts, and he knew every one of 
them. Each post represented a day, and each day 
in counting them he omitted one, and calculated 
from the remaining number of posts how many more 
days he would have to stay in prison till he had 
served his term. His greatest delight was to get to 
the end of one of the sides of the hexangle. He had 
many years to wait yet, but there is no place like a 
prison for teaching people to be patient. I re- 
member seeing once a prisoner, who had regained his 
liberty after twenty years of captivity, take leave 
of his comrades. Some of his fellow- prisoners re- 
membered him when he had come in first — a light- 
hearted lad, who cared little for the crime he had 
committed and still less for his punishment. He 
left the place a grey-haired old man, with a sad and 
gloomy face. When he went round to bid his com- 
rades good-bye, he entered each cell without speaking, 
and, after crossing himself before the ikona,^ he 
bowed low before his fellow-prisoners, asking them^^ 
to think kindly of him when he was gone.' I also ' 

V t .. 1 Inuftge of a saint, which is always hong up in the east corner 

of a room. 

* A Russian phrase. The literal meaning of it is, 'Do not 





well remember another convict, who had formerly 
been a well-to-do Siberian peasant. One evening he 
was suddenly summoned to the gate to see his wife. 
Six months before he had learned that she had mar- 
ried again, and had been much affected by the news. 
When he came to the gate she gave him a small sum 
of money. They stood talking together for perhaps 
two minuter, when they both burst into tears and 
took leave of each other for ever. I saw his face as 
he came back slowly into his cell. We were indeed 
taught to be patient in the convict prison. 

As soon as it began to grow dusky we were 
ordered to go into our barracks, where we were 
locked up for the night. I always thought it very 
hard to have to come out of the fresh air into a long, 
low, stifling room, which was dimly lighted by two 
or three tallow candles, and pervaded by a sickening 
smell. When I look back upon that time now, I 
often wonder how I could have borne that life for 
ten years. Three planks on a rude wooden bench 
filled the space assigned to me. There were several 
of these benches in the room, and they served as 
sleeping-places for about thirty men. In winter 
the doors were locked early, and we had sometimes 
to wait four hours till bedtime. It is impossible to 
describe the confusion that reigned during those 
four hours—noise, shouting, laughter, bad language^ 
the clanking of chains, mephitic smells, and, above 
ail, those cropped heads, branded brows, and ragged 
dothes looming out of the dim light — everything 


iber me in anger.' It is frequently used by persons who have 
been liri^g t<)gether for some time and are going to separate. 

> c ^ ■••■' 


present seemed to speak of the deepest possible 
degradation ; and yet human beings lived through 
it all. Man is a being that can accustom him- 
self almost to anything ; and I believe that this 
power of acclimatising himself anywhere and every- 
where is one of Nature's greatest boons to her 

There were about two hundred and fifty convicts 
in the place, and their number remained pretty much 
the same. Of course there were always new-comers 
arriving, while others left the prison, having served 
their term, and others died. We were the strangest med- 
ley of people ; and I am sure that there hardly exists a 
spot or a province in Bussia which was not repre- 
sented in the prison. A few of the convicts were 
foreigners, and several belonged to the half-wild 
mountain tribes which inhabit the Caucasus. We 
were all divided into different classes or departments, 
according to the crimes we had committed. The 
majority of the convicts had been sentenced to per- 
petual exile after the term of their punishment had 
expired. These wretches bore on their branded brows 
the abiding mark of their shame; they had lost 
everything, down to the rights of a human being — 
society had cast them off for ever. They came to 
us as a rule for ten or twelve years, and then were 
sent to the settlements in the interior of Siberia. 
Some were military prisoners who had not yet lost, 
all civil rights, and only remained with us for a short 
time^ when they returned to their regiments. ^ But 
the majority of them had so well profited by' the 
teaching they had received from the more experienoed 



gaol-birds that they were frequently sent back to u» 
for twenty years or more. This class of convicts 
went by the name of the *Ck)nstant Department/ 
and they had not lost all civil rights. There was 
finally a third class, consisting of criminals of the 
lowest order, chiefly military, which was called the 
'Special Department.* These miserable wretches 
knew that they had been sentenced to penal servi- 
tude for life, and would frequently say to the other 
convicts : ' You will have done your work some time 
or other and then go away, but we must stay here 
for ever.' I have been told, however, that this * de- 
partment ' has been abolished since, as well as many 
other things that existed in my time. 

jVIany a year has passed away since I became a 
convict, but the memory of that time seems to haunt 
me like a terrible dream. How well I remember the 
moment when I first crossed the threshold of the 
convict prison ! It was one afternoon in December ; 
the early evening had closed in, and the convicts 
were coming home from their work. A tall mous- 
tached subaltern officer unlocked the gates of the 
strange house where I was to spend so many years, 
and suffer what I had never imagined I would have 
strength to bear. I had always rather suspected 
prisoners of exaggerating when they spoke of the 
misery of being never allowed to be alone, not even 
for a moment. But I soon enough began to realise 
the horror and misery of this enforced oompanion- 
ahip. When I went out to work an escort accom- 
panied me, and when I came home I was shut up [ 
two hundred fellow-sufferers, and never alone — r ^ 




--..-^ .-■» 

« t 


no, not for a moment. But there were worse things yet 
to which I had to get accustomed. _ 

I have said before that there were among us crimi- 
nals of all kinds and classes, beginning with the man ' 
who had slain his adversary in a moment o f blind j 
fury a nd the highway robber, and ending with the 
c old-blogd ftd miirH^^AT whn delighted in the death- 
struggles of his victim, the professional pickpocket, 
and the tramp. There were also some curious cha- l 
racterSy about whom I used to wonder what crime \ 
they possibly could have committed to have been I 
sent here. Yes, every one of my comrades had a \ 
strange and weird tale to tell, that weighed on his j 
soul like a nightmare which cannot be shaken ; 
off. Generally speaking, they hardly ever alluded i 
to their past life. I have known murderers who I 

always seemed so perfectly happy that it was evident ; 
they could not be much troubled by their conscience, / 
while others, on the contrary, always maintained a/ 
gloomy silence. Few ever told the history of their- 
lives, and none cared to hear it, as it would have^ 
been against prison etiquette to evince the slightest 
curiosity about other people's afiairs. Occasionally^ 
if he had nothing better to do, some one would. relal 
some episode of his past life, while another^ woul( 
listen coolly and impassively. I remember one da^ 
hearing a. drunken robber tell us how he had enticed 
a little boy five years old into a bam and murderec^ 
him there. The others, who had hitherto laughed a^ 
his ribald jests suddenly turned against him anci , 
bade him hold his tongue — not that they were\ 
filled with horror at his tale, but because he had| 






spoken about things which it was not the custom .to 
mention there. More than one-half of the men could 
lead and ^te, and I should like to know if there 
are many populated places in Russia where one might 
choose at random two hundred and fifty men, one- 
half of whom could read and write. I remember once ^ 
hearing some one infer from the comparatively small I 
number of illiterate convicts that education was thej 
moral ruin of the lower classes. He was wrong. The 
cause of the terrible depravity of our lower classes must 
be sought for elsewhere, not in teaching them to read 
and write. 

Each department wore a peculiar garb .or uni- 
form. Thus some had jackets one-half of which was 
giey and the other dark brown, and trousers to 
match, one leg being grey and the other dark 
brown; others had grey jackets with dark brown 
sleeves. I remember that one day, when we were 
out working, a girl who was selling kalatchi, after 
staring at me for some time, suddenly burst out 
laughing, and said, 'Why, they must have been 
very badly off for stuff when they made your clothes 
of two different materials.' Our heads were also 
shaved different ways ; some had it shaved length- 
ways, beginning at the forehead and ending at the 
back of the head, only half of it being shaved, 
while others had only the front part of their heads 
shaved from ear to ear. 

'^ 'Even the most superficial and indifferent ob- 
server could not have helped noticing that there 
were certain peculiar traits of character common to 
all the members of this strange fiimily. They were, 










'• t 


-• *■ ;w- 

with few exceptions, a surly, envious^ swaggering 
set, easily offended, and terribly punctilious in tbeir 
observation of certain rules which constituted what 
may be called prison etiquette. One of these rules 
was, never to be taken by surprise by anything, and 
never to appear astonished; another, always to main- 
tain a solemn, even sullen, behaviour. The few light- 
hearted fellows, who would persist in making the 
best of everything and cracking jokes with every- 
body, were universally despised for their lack of 
sobriety. No man of the world could have been 
more careful in observing appearances than were 
these condemned felons. Yes ; I have not un fre- 
quently seen the greatest braggarts turn into whining, 
cringing poltroons, and display an amount of cow- 
ardice which contrasted oddly enough with the 
bravery on which they had prided themselves only a 
short time before. There were a few really courageous 
fellows among them, men who, through their superior 
power of will and their marked individuality, would 
have been fit to take the lead, yet even they, curiously 
enough, seemed to shrink into themselves and adapt 
themselves to the general tone of the prison. The 
greater part of the convicts were terribly depraved. 
Constant gossiping, tale-bearing, quarrelling, cynical 
jesting, and vicious, filthy actions made the place a 
perfect hell. They all felt it and suffered under it^ 
yet nobody had the moral courage to stand up and 
try and reform his fellow-prisoners. Even the most 
desperate criminals, who been the terror of whole 
districts;, and who had come to us expecting to 
astonish their comrades by the recital of their 

c . - 



) t 

feroeioos deeds, soon subsided into silence as they 
became aware that they had come to the wrong 
pbice if they had thought to become objects 'of ad- 

I have never met with any signs of shame and con- 
trition on the part of a convict prisoner ; on the con- 
trary, they seemed actually to pride themselveson being 
convicts and sentenced to penal servitude, as if the 
very name of convict were an honourable appellation 
ax>nferTed only upon a chosen few. Occasionally they 
would indulge in a few humorous remarks concerning 
their own position, as, for instance, 'We are lost 
people ; we would not walk straight when we were free, 
now we must run along the green street ; ' ' * We 
would not obey our &ther and mother, now we must 
foUow the drum ; ' ' We would not sew with threads 
of gold, now we must break stones by the road,' etc. 
But, as I have said before, all these were moral sen- 
tences formed expressly for the edification of their 
hearers and for their amusement, while in the bottomN 
of their hearts they considered themselves the un- 
fortunate victims of a cruel and relentless fate.^' 
They were aU adepts in the arts of quarrelling and 
using foul language, especially in the latter. Every 
word, every expression seemed to have been weighed 
carefully and pondered over, that it might cut the 
deeper and hurt the more. *The devil wore out, 
three wooden shoes before he brought us together ' 
was a common saying among them. The more ener- 
getic and manly natures, who all their life had been 
accustomed to rule over others by the power of their 

' Le. mn tbe gauntlet. 



f • >«Vi>*s..^-^ 





iron will, and whom the others could not help re- 
specting, kept rather aloof from the rest, seldom 
quarrelled, as it would have been infra dig. to de- 
mean themselves to such a point, and were almost 
invariably obedient to their superiors, not from 
moral principle or any sense of duty, but from 
a kind of tacit compromise between both parties, 
that if they behaved well it was for their own benefit. 
As a rule the officers were rather careful in their 
treatment of them. I cannot help mentioning here 
one instance which will serve to illustrate and 
confirm what I have been saying. There was among 
the convicts a man with terrible animal passions who 
could become positively dangerous when infuriated. 
One fine summer day, during the time allotted us 
for recreation, he was led out to be flogged for some 
offence. The officer who was in immediate charge of 
the prison had come to the guard-room, which was 
at the gates of the prison, to superintend the execu- 
tion of the sentence in person. This major was held 
in abomination by the convicts, who trembled at the 
very sight of him. He was unbearably strict, and 
'pounced upon people,' as the men used to say. 
Most of all they feared his searching lynx eyes, which 
seemed to see what was going on at the other end of 
the prison before he had fairly got in at one end. He 
had been nicknamed 'Eight-eyes.' He made a great 
mistake in treating us as he did, as by his imprudent 
^ and oruel behaviour he only embittered and irri- 

. tated men who were already almost too much so. If 

"' it had notbeenfor the head G-ovemor, or Commandant^ 

of the Prison, as he was called, he might have done 

c 2 



OS a great deal of harm, but the latter happily inter^ 
posed sometimes between )iis victims and himself.. 
As it was, I often wonder that not more attempts 
were made to murder him. He tyrannised over us for 
a good many years, and finally left the service. It 
is tnie that he was brought up before a court-martial 
subsequently, but that could not take away our past 
sufferings and make them undone. 

The convict turned pale when he was summoned 
to the guard-room. As a rule he had always sub- 
mitted to ^18 punishment without saying a word or 
uttering a scream, and got up after it and walked 
quietly away as if he had never so much as felt one 
blow ; but this time he thought himself in the right, 
and had made up his mind not to submit to what 
he considered an injustice. As I have said before, 
he turned pale, and managed to slip a sharp English 
shoe-knife into his sleeve. It was strictly prohibited 
to have knives and other cutting instruments in the 
prison ; searches were frequently instituted for them, 
and the prisoner who was found to be in unlawful 
possession of a knife or any other instrument was 
severely pimished, and his instruments were con- 
fiscated. But as no trade or handicraft can be car- 
ried on without a knife, those who had lost them 
took good care to provide themselves with others at 
the first opportunity. All the convicts rushed up to 
the fence and looked anxiously through the chinks, 
as it was well known that Petroff had made up hia 
mind not to submit this time, and to kill the major. 
Bat, fortunatdy for himself^ at the last moment our 
major got into his droshki and drove away, having 


" ' 4 

I f^/yj^*'i'-^^'>*^ 




asked another officer to superintend the flogging* 
* God has saved his life/ said the convicts. Petroff 
At once renounced all ideas of murder, and lay down 
to be flogged. The convict prisoner is obedient and 
submissive only to a certain point, which it is 
dangerous to overstep. The man who has suffered^"^ 
in silence and patience for many a year suddenly re- >' 
volts and breaks out like a madman. I have already 
said that never in the course of all the years I spent 
with them have I seen the convicts show the 
slightest sign of shame or repentance. I suppose 
that this apparent hardness of heart is in great 
deal caused by &lse shame and bad example. On 
the other side, who can say that he has seen into 
the inmost depths of those hearts and read there 
what is hidden from all the world ? It might, per- 
haps, seem hardly probable that in all those years I 
should not have met with one instance at least of 
moral suffering caused by the memory of some 
<srime. Yet I repeat that I never did. The philo- 
sophy of crime is more difficult than is commonly 
fupposed, and it is impossible to define crime accord- 
ing to certain given points of view. Neither im- 
prisonment nor the hard-labour system will ever 
make the prisoner a better man or a more useful 
member of society ; while they are the means -of 
punishing him and protecting society against his 
violence, they only develop in him a feeling of in- 
tense hatred, a thirst for forbidden pleasures, and an 
almost 'incredible recklessness. I am also persuaded 
that the solitary imprisonment system, in spite of 
all that has been said in its fisivour, entirely fiuls to 



fulfil it6 object. It takes all the strength out of a 
man, enervates and weakens him morally, and terri- 
fies him into becoming what is commonly called a 
model of repentance, but what in reality is no more 
like true repentance than a mummy is like a living, 
breathing human being. 

I have firequently heard convicts relate the most 
terrible crimes, the most unnatural deeds, laughing, 
heartily at their recollection of them. I remember 
particularly one young nobleman who had murdered 
his fiither. He had served in some Government 


office, led a wild, reckless life, and run into debt.. 
His old father tried to put a stop to his extrava- 
gance, but he had some fortune and a small estate ; 
and his son murdered him in order to get at his 
fathers money. The murderer had the impudence 
to inform the police of his father's mysterious dis- 
appearance, and lived even more riotously than be- 
fore. The body was discovered at last in a covered 
drain in the courtyard; it was dressed, the gr&jr- 
haired head had been severed from the trunk, and 
placed on a pillow close to it. The murderer pleaded 
not guilty, but evidences were too strongly against 
him, and he was disennobled and sentenced to penal 
servitude for twenty years. When I knew him, he 
was a frivolous, reckless yoimg man, rather clever, 
and always in excellent spirits. The other prisoners 
despised him, not for his crime, for that had long 
been forgotten^ bat for his frivolous behaviour and 
lack of dignity. He used occasionally to mention 
his fiither in the course of conversation, and I re- 
member hearing him say once, when he was telling 

, ■ ■». 




me of the vigorous constitution hereditary in his 
family : ^ Take my father, for instance now, he never 
had a day's ill-health up to the very moment of his 
death.' I never did believe him to be guilty, 
although persons who had lived in the same town 
with him, and were acquainted with all the particu- 
lars of his story, assured me that it was true. The 
convicts once heard him crying out in his sleep: 
*Hold him fast! Cut off his head; cut oflF his 


Almost all the men talked in their sleep, gene- 
rally about knives or other cutting instruments, and 
occasionally they swore and used bad language. * We 
have been so much beaten,' they used to say by way 
of explanation, ' that our bowels are loose in our 
bellies, and that makes us cry out in our sleep.' 

No convict ever looks upon hard labour as an 
occupation. To him it is merely the hateful task 
which must be done, and as soon as he has finished 
it, or worked the stated number of hours, he goes 
back to the prison, where he devotes most of his 
spare time to some more profitable occupation than 
working for the Government* No man can exist 
without work, and the convict prisoner least of all. 

( There is an old proverb about Satan finding work 

for idle hands which perhaps might be applied to no 
place with more truth than to a prison, the inhabi- 
tants of which are in great part men still in their 
prime, full of life and vigour, who must find an outlet 
for their pent-up energies. If occupation of a more 

^>. * -/t- engrossing character than their daily task is denied 

them, what other outlet remains but vice- of thi» 



lowest kind? This the convicts know, and instinctively 
they apply themselves to the exercise of some trade 
or handicraft which alone can save them from sinking 
lower and lower. During the long summer days 
there was but little time left for private employment, 
as we wiM'ked for the Government all day long, and 
could hardly get sleep enough during the short night. 
But in winter time, when the convicts were locked 
up in the prison at dusk, with the long dreary winter 
evening before them, the prison seemed to be trans- 
formed as if by magic into a large work-room in 
spite of the prohibition. That is, we were not forbid- 
den to work, but we were strictly forbidden to have any 
tools or instruments of any kind, without which it is 
impossible to work. Naturally enough, the convicts 
worked in secret, and I am rather inclined to think 
that the officers knew about it, but pretended not to 
see it. I have known many a criminal come into 
the prison without knowing any trade, and become 
a first-rate workman before he left it. There were 
among us boot- and shoe-makers, tailors, joiners, lock- 
smiths, woodcarvers, gilders, etc A Jew, Issiu Boum- 
stein, was a jeweller and pawnbroker. There was no 
lack of customers in the town, and the men worked 
bard, and their earnings were often considerable. 
The great difficulty was to keep the latter, as we 
were forbidden to have money, and the Major fre- 
quently appeared in the prison at night-time to 
search for hidden treasures. In spite of all the pre- 
cautions of the unfortunate owner, his poor little 
hoard was generally discovered and confiscated, and 
he was severely flogged for daring to disobey the regu- 

V '! 

* « -^ 


lations of the prison. Is it to be wondered at that 
the men preferred to spend their earnings in drink 
to seeing them fall into the hands of their tjTant ? 
Yet, after each nocturnal visitation, new instruments 
were bought, and everything went on as before. The 
officers knew this, and never interfered till the next 
visitation, and the convicts never even thought of 
murmuring at their hard lot, although their life was 
very much like that of people who live on a volcano. 
Those convicts who knew no trade tried, never- 
theless, to earn a few copecks occasionally in dif- 
ferent ways. Some bought and sold things which 
nobody but a prisoner would ever have thought of 
selling or buying, or even of calling things. But 
the convicts were poor and very practical, and could 
turn even a filthy rag to some account. Others were 
pawnbrokers. A convict who had either lost or spent 
all his money invariably pa^vned his things, and not 
only his own personal property, but articles of 
<;lothing, instruments, etc., which were either only 
his for the time being, as they formed part of his 
prisoner's garb which was given him by the Govern- 
ment, or else might be needed at any time. The 
pawnbroker let him have a trifling sum for his goods 
at a terribly high interest. If the poor wretch was 
unable to redeem his pledge at a given time, the 
things were sold without further ado. Not unfre- 
quently, however, the affair does not terminate quite 
so favourably for the pawnbroker; sometimes the 
<5onvict would, on receiving his money, report the 
whole transaction to the sergeant-at-arms, who at 
once would order the pawnbroker to return the 



things, which was done without demur. The pawn- 
broker returned the pledge in sullen silence, and 
occasionally gave vent to his feelings in a few em- 
phatic wishes concerning the future welfare of his 
customer, but as a rule he always acted on such 
occasions as if he had expected things to turn out 
that way, and knew that he might even have done the 
same thing if he had been in the other man's place^ 
^ They were all terrible thieves. We were allowed 
to have boxes with a lock and key to keep our 
things in, but this did not prevent the men from 
helping themselves to their fellow-prisoners' property. 
I remember how one of the convicts who was sin- 
cerely attached to me stole my Bible, the only book 
we were allowed to have in the prison. He confessed 
his theft to me that very day, not from any feeling 
of remorse, but because he saw that I was looking 
for it everywhere, and felt sorry for me. Several 
men sold spirits in the prison, and made quite a 
fortune by their trade. I shall speak more of the 
liquor trade hereafter, as it is rather an interesting 
subject. We also had a good many smugglers in 
the prison, who kept themselves in practice by smug- 
gling the liquor. 

I must not omit to make mention of the nume- 
rous charitable gifts which were continually sent to 
the prison. I do not think that the higher classes 
of our society have the slightest idea of the deep 
interest which the tradespeople and lower classes 
' take in the ^ unfoitmiates.' The gifts consisted for 
the greater part in bread of all kinds, money being 
seldom given. This in some places is a welcome 


,"- ^l■t.^'i^.^.^., 




boon to the convicts, especially the prisoners who 
are awaiting their trial, and are frequently half-starved. 
Each batch of bread is equally divided among the 
prisoners. I have even seen them cut a kal4tch' inta 
six parts, so that each man might have at least one 
mouthfuL I shall never forget the first time that I 
ever had a trifle given me as if I were a beggar. It 
happened soon after my arrival in the prison. I was 
coming home after my morning's work, with my 
escort, and met a woman and her daughter, a lovely 
little girl of ten years old. I had already seen them 
once before. The mother was a soldier's widow ; her 
husband, a young soldier, had been brought up before 
the court-martial — I do not know for what offence — 
and had died in the prisoner's ward in the hospital 
at the time when I was lying there ill. His wife 
and daughter had come to say good-bye to him,, 
weeping bitterly. When the little girl saw me she 
blushed, and whispered something into her mother's 
ear, who stopped, and after looking for some time in 
her bundle, finally drew forth a quarter of a copeck,'^ 
and gave it to the girl, who ran after me. * Here,, 
poor man, take this little copeck for Christ's sake ! ' 
cried she, and put the coin into my hand* I took it^ 
I and she ran back to her mother, looking very happy 

I have long kept that poor little copeck among my 

■ A kind of roU made of wheaten floor and water. 

* A ooin which is a Uttle more in value than a farthing. 

. '. <"-• • " 


-. -i 



How well I remember the first month of my life 
in the convict prison. It seems deeply engraved on 
my mind, while the long years that come after have 
left behind them a dull, monotonous, and gloomy 
impression. I feel as if all the incidents that hap- 
pened during the first days of my captivity had taken 
place only yesterday. Ought it not to be so ? 

I distinctly remember being very much struck at 
first to find that my new life was after all not so very 
different fi*om my old one. I seemed to have known 
jdl about it befordiand. When on my way to Siberia 
I had tried to guess what my life would be like. It 
was not till I had spent some time in the convict 
prison that I fully realised what an exceptional and 
unnatural existence I was to lead henceforth, and I 
<oould never make up my mind to bear it patiently. 
My first impression on entering the prison was a 
feeling of intense loathing ; yet, strange to say, the ^ 

Jife of a convict seemed to me less haid . than I had ^ 

|iv ^^vv pictured it to myself on the road. The ^^convicts, p^M 
f ^ . -*' were in chains, but still they were free to go about h^^^^'^ 
in the prison, to smoke, to swear at each other, sing 




whatever songs they liked, a few even drank brandy^ 
and some had regular card parties every night* 
Neither did the work in itself appear to me very 
difficult, and it was not till later on that I began to 
realise that it was rendered irksome and almost un- 
bearable through being imposed as a task which had 
to be finished by a certain time for fear of punish* 
ment. Many a poor labourer who is free works 
perhaps harder than a convict, and even spends some- 
times a part of the night working out of doors, 
especially in the summer-time* But he works for 
himself only, and this thought, and the knowledge 
that he will profit by his labour, is enough to reward 
him, while the convict is obliged to work at some- 
thing which can never be of the slightest use to him* 
I have sometimes thought that the way to crush 
and annihilate a human being completely would be 
to set him to do a completely senseless and useless 
thing. Now, although the work executed by th& 
convict is unprofitable and tedious so far as he him- 
self is concerned, it is far from being aimless in 
itself. He makes bricks, works in the fields, builds 
houses, etc* Sometimes he even gets interested in 
his work, and tries to do it better and quicker than: 
his fellow-workmen* But if he were condemned 
to pour water from one tub into another, and then 
back again, or to pound sand in a mortar, or to carry 
a heap of earth backwards and forwards, I am con- 
vinced that he would either commit, suicide within 
a few days or murder some of his fellow-su£ferer8 .in. 
^*^^'U Older to suffer death at onoe and be deliveridd from: 

this moral torture, shame, and d^;radation« 


* *■ . 



- 1 arrived at the prison in December, and conse- 
qoently knew nothing yet about the work in summer- 
time, which is much harder than in winter. During 
the cold season the convicts occasionally were sent 
down to the Irtysch to break up old barges that be- 
longed to the Gt>vemment ; others were employed in 
the various workshops or in shovelling away the snow 
which had accumulated round the houses after a snow- 
storm. Some ground and burned alabaster. But, as 
the days are short in winter, the daily task was soon 
done, and the convicts returned early to their prison, 
where they spent the rest of the day in idleness, 
unless they happened to have something to do for 
themselves. Only one-third of the convicts, how^^ 
ever, were fortunate enough to have some little pri- 
vate employment or know some trade ; the rest hung 
about listlessly, or wandered from cell to cell, quar- 
relling, gossiping, getting drunk if they happened to 
have any money, and at night gambling away thei 
last shirt. 

As the time wore on I began to realise that in 
prison life there is something harder to bear than 
the loss of freedom or hard labour in fetters, and that 
is the impossibility of being alone even for one mo- 
ment. I am quite sure that every convict felt this, 
and chafed under it) though perhaps he was not con- 
scions of the cause of his restlessness and suffering. 

Our food was not bad, and the convicts used to 
say that it was superior in quality to the food in the 
convict prisons in European Russia, but, not having v y^ .^ . 
been there, I am unable to judge. We were a;ll6wed 
to provide our own food if we chose — ^that is, if we 






]iad money enough. Meat was very cheap, but only 
those who had a private income indulged in the 
luxury of finding their own dinners, the greater part 
of the convicts preferring the prison diet. The bread 
was very good, and in great demand in the town^ 
but the shtshi ' was rather poor and thin, as it was 
made in a large vessel with a very scanty addition 
of groats. I used at first to be horrified at the 
numbers of black-beetles floating about in it, but 
my fellow-prisoners evidently thought that they im- 
parted an additional flavour to the soup, and never 
took any notice of them. 

During the first three days I did not go out to 
work with the others, as it is the custom to allow 
overy new-comer to rest after his journey. On the 
second day I went to the blacksmith's shop to have 
my old fetters taken off and new ones put on instead, 
as those which I had worn hitherto were not made ao- 
oording to regulations, and consisted of rings. The 
convicts had nicknamed them * small chimes.' They 
were worn over the clothes. My new chains, which 
were better adapted for working in them, consisted 
of four iron rods, as big as a finger each^ and con- 
nected by means of three rings. They were worn 
under the ^users. A leather strap was fastened 
with one end to the middle ring, and with the other 
to the strap that served as belt, and was worn over 
the shirt. 

How well I remember every incident of my first 
morning in the prison. The riveil was sounded in 
the banracks by the prison gate, and ten minutes 


' ' Soap made of pickled cabbage. 


kter the sNgeant-at-ams od duty unlocked the door. 

, A wretobed, splnttering tallow candle had been lighted 
in oar cell, and by its tight tiie convicts could be seen 
iini^ firom their palleta, shiTering with . the cold» 
jawning, slretching tfaemaelves. Hardly any words 

. - «e9« ezcbanged — Chey felt much too orbra and miser- 
aUfi to talk. A fij^ cnnsed themselves, others had 
abeady began to qoarreL The room wu terribly 
dose, and it was quit« a relief to have the fresh 
winter air stream^ ia through the open doors. The 
pOBvictB crowded round the water-tube ; each iu his 
bim plunged a tin drinldng-cup with a long handle 
intoithe water, then raising it to his mouth, took a 

' &ep draught, and squirting the water into the hollow 
of his hands, washed his face and hands in this pri- 
mitive fashion. The water had been brought in the 
n^bt hefme by a convict who had been chosen by 
the artil to do the house-work in the cells — keep the 
floor and pallets clean, fill onr washing-tub at night 
for washing, and in the morning with water for drink- 

,^ ^^.. .U. J„ V,. . .... .. .„,. ..A 







excuse him, my little brothers, he has no mannerifi- 
cation, poor fellow ! ' 

^ Manneriiication ' produced some effect, and was 
received with a shout of laughter, to the gratification 
of the stout convict, who was evidently the buffoon of 
the party. The tall convict merely cast a disdainful 
glance at him. 

' The old cow,' growled he under his breath, * has 
grown fat on prison food. I expect it is looking for- 
ward to having a litter of pigs next Cliristmas.* 

* I should like to know what kind of bird * you call 
^ yourself ?' screamed his opponent, growing very red 
I in the face. 

* 'Tis none of your business.' 
' Yes it is. I want to know what kind of bird 

you call yourself?' 

' I tell you that I shan't tell you.' 

' What kind of bird ? ' 
» * Never you mind.' 

( ' What kind of bird ? ' 

I There they stood staring hard at each other. 


The fat man was evidently expecting an answer, and 
; stood with his fists clenched, prepared to fight his 

antagonist then and there. I fully believed that 
S they were going to have it out, and watched them 

v^ith a certain interest, as all this was quite new to 
I me. But I soon learnt that such scenes generally 

, ended quite peaceably, being, as it were, merely 

acted for the edification of the bystanders. ,A real 

fight was quite an exceptional thing, and this fact is 



' An expretnon correspondiog to the Englisli slang phrase. 
'"Who are you?* 



ratber characteristic of the general tone of the 

The tall prisoner had remained immovable, 
calmly and majestically surveying us. He knew that 
the eyes of the whole party were fixed upon him, and 
that he was expected to give an answer. He was 
fully aware that his reputation would suffer unless 
he could prove satisfactorily tliat he was a bird, and 
to what species he belonged. He kept his eyes fixed 
on his antagonist with a look of ineffable contempt ; 
and, as if wishing to aggravate him still more, he 
scanned him minutely from head to foot as if he 
were examining a microscopic beetle. At last hr- 
said slowly and distinctly : * A gaolbird.' 

A loud shout of laughter greeted this ingenious 

* You are a d d brute and no gaolbird,' roared 
the hi man in a violent passion, having been beaten 
on all points. 

The quarrel threatened to become serious, and 
the spectators hastened to interpose and separate the 
enraged antagonists. 

*What are you cackling here for like a couple 
of old hens ? ' shouted one. 

'Why don't you fight instead of squabbling?' 
remarked another from his comer. 

* They fight, indeed I ' added a third ; * you never 
saw such a brave lot in all your bom days. Why, 
seven of us are not afraid to meet one man * 

^ Ob, but they are plucky Plough,' said a fourth, 
• Don't you know that one of them has come hera for ";^|85fT5^ 
stealing a loaf of bread — ^and the other has been 

f • 1 

* e-w-^ 


flogged for drinking out of an old woman's pot of 
milk 1 ' 

* Silence there ! ' roared the invalided soldier who 
lived in the barracks ostensibly for the purpose of 
maintaining order and quiet, and had the privilege 
of sleeping on a pallet bed of his own in a comer of 
the cell. 

' Hallo, brothers, hand the water over here. Ne- 
valid Petrovitxjh is getting up. Our dear little 
brother Nevalid Petrovitch must have a little water 
to wash himself.' 

' Brother, indeed 1 d your impudence,' 

growled the old soldier, slowly drawing on his coat. 
^I wonder you have the face to call me brother, 
when you have never treated me to a rouble's worth 
of brandy yet.' • 

The day began to dawn, and the roll was called. 
The kitchens were crowded with convicts in their 
short fur coats and two-coloured caps, who came to 
fetch the huge slices of bread which one of the cooks 
was cutting for them. Two cooks had been appointed 
by the artel for each kitchen, and to their trust the 
knives for cutting bread and meat had been com- 
mitted. Every corner and table in the kitchen was 
presently occupied by convicts fully equipped, for 
going out to work. Some had wooden bowls, filled 
with kvas * standing before them^ in which they 
steeped their bread before eating it. The noise arid 
shouting were almost unbearable, but two, or three 
men sat talking quietly in a comer. : i . ; . 

> A fermented drink made of rye. 
» 2 



'Bread and salt,' old Antonych, and good-morn- 
ing to you,' said a young convict, sitting down be- 
side a toothless and very surly-looking old gentle- 

* Sloming,' growled the other, without looking 
up, and pegging away at a piece of bread. 

* Do you know, Antonych, I had really begun to 
think that you had departed this life.' 

* You had better die first then.' 

I sat down beside them. On the other side of 
me a serious conversation was being carried on by 
two grave-looking convicts, who were evidently try- 
ing to appear very dignified. 

* Fm not afraid of being robbed,* said one ; * I 
tell you what, brother, I am afraid of being tempted 
t^ steal myself.' 

*Ah, those who think they can get round me 
had better think twice before they try.' 

* Do you think that they will fear you ? You are 
a simpleton, just like the rest of them. Why, she 
will come and wheedle every farthing out of your 
pocket, and never even say thank-you. That's how 
I got rid of my money, brother. She came here the 
other day, and what could I do with her? So I 
asked leave to go and see Fed'ka the hangman — the 
same who had a house in the suburbs which he bought 
of scurvy Solomon the Jew, who afterwards hanged 

* Yes, I know. He used to sell brandy here three 
years ago, and we called him Grrishka, the black pot- 
house. I know him.' 

^ .An expression corresponding to the bon oppHU of the Fzeneh. 

r.- ' 



^No, no; you are quite \n:oiig there. I mean 
another black pothouse.' 

' You are wrong, and not I. Don't you think you 
know everything now ? I shall prove to you that I 
am right.' 

*Will you, indeed! And who are you, pray, 
and who am I ? ' 

TU tell you presently who you are. Haven't 
I licked you many a time, and never even mentioned 
it: and here you dare to come and ask who you 

*You licked me, indeed! Why, the man who 
can lick me has yet to be bom, and he who has 
licked me is in his grave.' 

* You d d plague of Bender 1 ' 

* May the Siberian plague fall on you I ' • 
*If only a Turk would speak to you with his 


And so on, and so forth. 
^' *What, fighting again?' shouted the others. 
'When you were free you had no peace till you 
came here, and now you are only too glad to have a 
bellyful of food.' 

The combatants were silenced at once. Quarrel- 
ling — ^beating with the tongue, as it is termed — is 
generally tolerated, as it affords the audience rather 
a pleasant diversion. But a fight is allowed only 
under exceptional circumstances ; for, ten to one, the 
Major, as the Qovemor of our prison was called, is 
sure to hear of it and to investigate the matter 
closely. The combatants thenouselves frequently start 
a quarrel merely for the purpose of practising elocu- 



iioo. Sometimes they will begin apparently in a 
rage, and you expect every moment to see tliem 
throttling each other, but after reaching a certain 
point they suddenly cool down, and separate on the 
best of terms. The specimens of talk which I have 
quoted here are taken at random from the conversa- 
tions that were carried on daily. It took me some 
time to understand how people could possibly quarrel 
for the sake of amusement, till it became evident to 
me that vanity was one of the principal motives, as 
the party who quarrelled according to all the rules 
of rhetoric was highly applauded by the audience. 

Both on the day of my arrival and on the next I liad 
noticed that many unfriendly glances were directed 
towards me. Other convicts, on the contrary, who 
evidently supposed that I had got some money, hung 
about me trying to ingratiate themselves. They 
taught me how to wear my fetters, got me a box 
with a key (which I paid for) where I was to keep my 
underclothing and a few other things I had brought 
with me. I am sorry to have to add that on the 
very next day my new friends stole the box and sold 
it for drink. One of them grew subsequently much 
attached to me, though he never could resist' the 
temptation of robbing me whenever the opportunity 
presented itself. Curiously enough, he did it. without 
any feeling of compunction, and almost mechanically, 
as if he were impelled to do it by a certain sense of 
duty. I could' never, be angry, with him for^ stealing 

: I.WBS alao tcddthat I 'must^ jSxid myrOwn tea and 
buy a teapoL .Meanwhile one ,of my, iKformant^ 

,f . 

■ <■■■< 


' I 




lent me his, and recommended to me a cook 
who would prepare my dinner for thirty copecks a 
month if I preferred to find myself. It is needless 
to add that they at once borrowed money from me, 
and even repeated this small transaction several 
times in the course of the first day. 

As a rule, convicts who are of gentle birth have a 
great deal to sufifer in the prison. They are disliked 
by their fellow-convicts, who refuse to acknowledge 
themselves as their equals, thougli they have lost all 
the privileges of their former rank and position. It 
afforded them unspeakable delight to sneer at us for 
our disgrace, and to witness our sufferings which we 
were trying to hide from them. Their hatred and 
conteinpt manifested themselves especially when we 
were out working together, because we were not as 
strong as they, and could not help them as much as 
they expected. 

There were several gentlemen in the convict prison, 
five of them were Poles — I shall speak more of them 
hereafter. The other convicts hated the Poles even 
more than they hated us. The latter (I speak only of 
the political criminals) treated them with the utmost 
politeness, though at the same time they kept aloof 
from them, and took no pains to disguise their 
loathing. This the convicts knew, and made them 
pay dearly for it. 

It was not till after I had lived nearly two years 
in the prison that some of the convicts began *to 
treat me with something like cordiality. Subse-^ 
quently the greater number of them grew to like 
me, and I was acknowledged to be a ^ good ' man. 



There were four Russian gentlemen beside mjrself 
in the prison. One of these was a miserable depraved 
wretch. I had been warned not to grow too intimate 
with him before I met him, and I accordingly 
repelled all his advances. Another was the parri- 
cide whom I have mentioned before in my memoirs. 
The third was Akim Akimytch, the greatest original 
I have ever come across. I seem to see him now 
before me — a tall, gaunt man, of very limited intel- 
lectual capacities, hardly able to read and write, 
passionately fond of arguing, and as punctilious and 
pedantic as a Crerman. The convicts used to laugh 
at him good-humouredly^ tl^ough some of them 
rather feared him on account of his quarrelsome dis- 
position. He had from the first become intimate 
with them, his intimacy extending even to fighting 
and quarrelling with his friends. He was remarkably ' 
honesty and could never stand by quietly and see an 
injustice conmiitted without immediately taking the 
matter up, even if it was none of his business. He 
often lectured the convicts on the immorality of 
stealing. We became friends from the first day we 
met, and he told me his history at once. He had long 
served in the Caucasus, had finally risen to the rank 
of captain, and had been made governor of some small 
fortress. One fine night a neighbouring Caucasian 
prince attacked his fortress and burnt it down, but 
was defeated and driven back. Akim Akimytch pre- 
tended not to know who the culprit was, and the at* 
tack was ascribed to some unruly tribe in the neigh- 
bouihood. A month elapsed, and Akim Akimytch 
asked the prince to come and pay him a visit. He 

'■■ .»s 





came, without suspecting any evil. Akfm Akimytch 
marched out his troops, and in their presence accused 
\ and convicted him of his crime, told him that it was 

I exceedingly wrong to burn down fortresses, and, 

), after giving him minute directions as to what the 

V behaviour of a peaceful prince ought to be, shot him 

I dead on the spot, and immediately reported the case 

I to his superiors. He was tried and condemned to 

death, but the sentence was commuted to twelve 
years' hard labour in Siberia. He was quite aware 
J of having acted illegally, and told me that he 

I had known it before he shot the prince. Yet he did 

P not seem to be able* to understand clearly wherein 

he had done wrong, and would say in reply to my 

remarks, ' But he burned down my fortress. Would 

you have me thank him for it ? ' 

! The convicts laughed at Akim Akimytch for his 

) queer sayings and doings, but they also respected 

him for his love of order and cleverness. 

There seemed to be no handicraft in which he 
I was not proficient. He exercised at once the pro- 

I fessions of joiner, boot- and shoe-maker, painter, lock- 

I smith, gilder, etc., ^all which diflFerent arts he had 

acquired during his imprisonment by watching the 
others at their work. He also made divers baskets, 
boxes, toys, and paper lanterns, which he sold in the 
town. His earnings were considerable, and he spent 
them mostly in buying underclothing or a softer 
pillow, and invested in a mattress which could be 
, folded up 80 as to take up little room and be stowed 
.\y f away easily during the daytime. ^He was my room 

fellow, and very kind to me during the first days of 





my captivity. Before going to their work the pri- 
soners assembled in the courtyard in two rows. Both 
being them and behind them soldiers were drawn up 
with loaded guns. Then the head engineer appeared 
with his officials and accompanied by the * conductor,' 
who told the convicts off in separate groups and sent 
them to their work. I was sent with several others to 
an engineer's workshop in a low stone building which 
stood in the midst of a large yard where materials of 
all kinds were scattered about. The building con- 
tained also a forge, and the joiner's, locksmith's, and 
painter's workshops. Akim Akimytch was hard at 
work in the latter preparing his colours and painting 
chairs and tables. 

While waiting for my new chains I entered into 
conversation with him about my first impressions in 
the prison. 

* You are right,' he said, ^ gentlemen are not liked 
here, especially if they happen to be politic criminals. 
Bat then, you know, they have- reason enough for 
hating you. In the first place you are altogether 
different from them, and, in the second place, before 
coming here they were all either serfs or soldiers, 
and you must own yourself that they have precious 
little cause for liking you. And let me tell you that 
life is by no means easy here. But I have been told 
that it is even worse in the Bussian prisons. There 
are some here who have come from those prisons,, and 
they cannot say enough in praise of our place. . They 
say it is 4ike coming. (Oat of hell and going; stwgbtr 
into Paradise. And yet the work there is iiQt*?rery: 
hard. They say that the officers behave differentlyy 


■ ..'■. I 






too, and that there is hardly any military discipline 
in those convict prisons. But then, I understand, 
that there an exile may live in his own house* I 
have never been there myself, but they tell me so. 
The convicts in Bussia, you see, are not obliged 
to shave their heads, and do not wear a uniform; 
now, for my part, I rather like to see them ajl 
shaved and dressed alike. It looks tidier and cleaner, 
and is pleasing to the eye. Yet the convicts do not 
like it. Did you ever see such a motley crowd 
before? One has been a soldier, another is a 
Tcherkesse, a third a Raskolnik,* a fourth an 
orthodox peasant who has left his family, his 
dear children, at home, a fifth is a Jew, a sixth a 
gipsy, a seventh the Lord knows who. And all these 
diflFerent people are expected to live together in peace 
and harmony — to eat out of the same dish and sleep 
on the same boards. And then there is no liberty 
whatever here. If you happen to have a nice little 
bit of something good to eat, you must swallow it in 
secret, and if you want to keep a farthing of your 
own money you must hide it in your boots, and, go 
where you will, you are always in prison. And how 
you can expect a man to keep steady under the cir- 
cumstances is more than I can tell.' 

AH this was nothing new to me. I wanted «to 
know something about our Grovemor the .Major, and 
Akfm Akimytch was only too glad to .talk. . What 
he told me produced a most painful impression upon 
me.: -It rwas my hie to remain, fortwof^wl^ole yean 
under \his rule, and . I soon 1^ P^ opportunity of 

> A religiotu sect in Ritssia; ' ' 



verifying the truth of what Akim Akimytch had told 
me about him. He was a terrible man in the full 
sense of the word^ having almost unlimited power 
over two hundred prisoners. His temper was very 
violent ; he led a wild life, and looked upon the con- 
victs as so many natural enemies, which was a great 
mistake. He was by no means without natural capaci- 
ties, but there was something strange and distorted 
even about his good qualities. In his fits of passion he 
would sometimes burst into the prison in the middle 
of the night, and woe betide the convict who was found 
sleeping on his left side or his back. He was severely 
flogged the next day for having disobeyed the Major^s 
orders to sleep on his right side. He was both hated 
and feared by the convicts ; his face was purple, and 
had a sinister expression. It was well known that 
his servant Fed'ka ruled over him. He loved his 
poodle Tres6rka above everything, and nearly went 
out of his mind with grief when the dog fell ill. He 
cried ov^ him as if he had been his own child, 
turned a veterinary surgeon out of doors and was 
with difficulty prevented from kicking him for not 
being able to cure the poodle ; and, having heard from 
Fed'ka that there was a convict in the prison who bad 
taught himself the veterinary art, and had performed 
some very successful cures, he sent for the man at once. 
'Help me, save Tresorka, and I will give thee gold ! ' 
screamed he, when the man entered his room. Now 
it 80 hiq^pened that the latter was a shrewd Siberian 
peasant^ and xeally a first-rate veterinary surgeon. - I 
once overheard him relating the stoiy to the other 
'prisoners;, a long time afterwards, when the whole ^ 
thing had been forgotten. 






*The dog was lying on the sofa on a white 

pillow. I examined him, and saw at once that 

! he was ill with inflammation. Says I to myself, 

! if I were to bleed the brute now, he would recover, 

I but, says I again to myself, how, if I should not 

cure him, and he should die ! " No," says I to the 
Major ; " highborn one, you have sent for me too late. 
If I had seen him the day before yesterday, I might 
have saved him, but I could not do anything now." ' 
And thus Tresorka departed this life. Once an 
attempt had been made to murder the Major. The 
would-be murderer had been a convict for several 
years, and always noted for his good behaviour. He 
hardly ever spoke to anyone, and was generally 
looked upon as a harmless idiot. He could read and 
write, and had for the last year been constantly read- 
ing his Bible day and night. When all were asleep, 
he used to get up at midnight, light a wax taper 
which he had bought in the church, climb upon the 
stove, open his book, and read till morning. Ode 
fine day he told the sergeant on duty that he was 
not going out to work as usual. This was of course 
reported to the Major, who flew into a violent pas- 
sion and appeared immediately in the prison. The 
convict threw a brick at him which he had previously 
secreted, but missed his aim, was seized, tried, 
punished, and died on the third day in the hospital. 
On his death-bed he said that he wished nobody ill, 
but that he wished to suflFer. I never heard that he 
belonged to any religious sect, and the other convicts 
i^;>?'^-y • ' •'"^'^ always spoke of him with great respect. 

They were putting on my new chains when severp' 
girls came in selling kalatchi. Some of them v 



mere children* Their mothers baked the kalatchi,' 
and they carried them about ibr sale till they grew 
up, when they continued to visit the prison, but 
without the kalatchi. There were one or two full- 
grown women among them. The kalatchi cost a 
jgrosh apiece, and were nearly all bought up by the 
convicts. \ 

I noticed one of them, a grey-haired joiner, with 
a blooming face, who flirted desperately with the 
girls. Shortly before their arrival he had tied a red 
cotton kerchief round his throat, and began a con- 
versation with a fat woman, marked all over with 
toiall^pox, who had placed her basket on his work- 

* Why did you not come yesterday ? ' asked he 
with a self-confident smile. 

* That's a good one ! I did come, but you were 
nowhere to be found,' answered she. 

*• You see, we were called away on business, else 
we should not have failed to appear.' 

* All your friends called on me the day before yes- 

* Who ever were they ? ' 

^ Maryashka came, and Khavr6shka and Tche- 
kundi, and Twogroshes came.' 

* You don't mean to say,' said I to Akim Aki- 
mytch, *that ' 

<It does happen,' replied he, bashfully casting 
down his eyes. 

li did hippen, bat with great difficulties, and 
not without donaderable expense, as it was necessary 

- ' 'A voli made of flour and water. 


■ -^ 







>.■ — . 1 

^^.^*«f'- ^*^U^^ 


in such cases to bribe the escort. I remember once 
witnessing a * lover's ' meeting on the banks of the 
Irtysh, whither three of us bad been sent to repair a 
lime-kihi. Our escort happened to be good-natured 
enough to allow the meeting. At last two ^ promp- 
ters,' as the convicts call them, appeared. 

* Where have you been all this time ? — at Mr. 
Wolf's ? ' said the convict, who had been anxiously 
expecting them for the last hour. 

* Surely I have not been very long in coming. 
Why, a crow could not fly faster than I have walked,' 
replied the young lady. 

She was the dirtiest female I had ever seen in 
this world, and the identical Tchekund^. Her com- 
panion was Twogroshes, and she was still dirtier. 

* It seems quite a long time since I saw you last,' 
continued the beau, addressing himself to the last- 
named young person. 

' You have grown quite thin.' 

< Perhaps so. I used to be fat once, but now I 

am as thin as if I had swallowed a needle.' 

« • • • 

I took leave of Akim Akimytch, and, having 
been told that I might go back to the prison if ^ I 
liked, I summoned my escort and left the forge. 
The convicts were already coming in to their dinner. 
Prisoners who have a task given them always come 
in before the others. The only way to get a convict 
to work with zeal is to set him a task. Sometimes 
these tasks are very difiScult, but,, notwithstanding, 
the convict will get through the btisiness in half the 
time he would take to do it if he were obliged to work 



till the dhim sounds for dinner. Having once finished 
his work he is free to go back to the prison and 
spend the rest of the day as ne likes best. 

As the kitchen was too small to seat all the con* 
victs at once, they dined separately, each calling for 
his share as he came in. I tried to swallow some 
shtshi, but finding them too unpalatable made myself 
some tea. Another convict, also a gentleman by 
birth, joined me, and we sat down at one end of the 
table. The convicts came and went around us ; all 
had not come in yet, and there was room enough 
left in the kitchen. Five men sat down together at 
a big table. The cook poured out some shtshi into 
two wooden bowls, and set them on the table before 
them, together with a huge platter of fried fish. 
They were evidently celebrating some festival or 
other, as they had been ordering their own dinner. 
They scowled at us. A Pole entered the kitchen 
and sat down by us. 

^ I know all that's going on, even when I am 
away,' shouted a tall convict who had just come into 
the kitchen and taken everybody in at a glance. 
The new-comer might be about fifty years old ; he 
was of strong build, tall and spare. There was a 
curious expression of good-humoured shrewdness in 
his &ce, which was rendered irresistibly comical by 
his thick protruding nether lip. ^ I hope you have 
had a good night's rest. Why don't you say good- 
morning to me? How do you do, good people of 
Koursk?' be went on, sitting down beside the men 
who were eating thdbr own dinner. ' Bread and salt, 
where are your manners? ' 


■r' ^'■ 



* We are not from Koursk, brother,* . 
' All right, from TaraboflF, then.' 
' We are not from TamboflF, either. There is 

nothing for you here, brother. You had better go 
to the rich man, and l)eg there.' 

' Well, brothers, my belly feels rather empty to- 
day. And pray, where does the rich man live ? ' 

* G&sin is rich enough, I should say. Go to 

* Giisin is making merry to-day, my brothers, and 
spending all his money in drink.' 

i,, ' He had twenty roubles,' said another. *Ay, ay, 

I there's nothing like selling spirits after all if you 

want to make money.' 

* Well, if you are not going to ask me to dinner, 
I shall go and eat out of the common dish.' 

* Why don't you go and ask the gentry over there 
to give you some tea ? ' 

* There are no gentry here — they are no better 
than we are now,' growled another convict, who had 
hitherto been sitting silently in a corner. 

* I should like some tea very much, but I don't 
care to ask for it ; we are not without pride after all,' 
remarked the thick-lipped convict, looking good- 
naturedly towards us. 

* Come here and have some tea, if you like,' said 
I to him. 

^ I think I should like some ! ' and he came up 
to the table. 

^ Pshaw ; when he was at home he ate his shtshi 
V «"-.,-' with a wooden shoe, and now he's learnt to like tea 

because his betters like it,' said the surly convict. 




'Don't you drink tea here?' I asked, but he 
vouchsafed me no answer. 

* Oh, here are the kakitchL ; please let me have 

A young convict had come in with a basketful of 
kalatchi, which he sold in the prison. The. woman 
who baked them let him have one kalatch in every 
ten which he sold. 

* Kalatchi, kalatchi,' shouted he ; * hot kalatchi, 
kalatchi from Moscow. I should like to eat them 
all myself, but money is scarce. Look here, boys, 
I have only one kalatch left. Who will eat it in 
memory of his mother ? ' A burst of laughter greeted 
this last sally, and several men bought kalatchi. 

*0h, my little brothers,' he went on, * won't 
Gasin be dead drunk to-day ? I wish, though, he 
had chosen some other time for boozing. Eight- 
eyes may come down upon us any time to-day.' 

* Tliey will keep him out of sight. Is he very 

* Awfully. Wants to fight everybody, too.' 

* He'll catch it, then, sure enough.' 

^ Who is this man they are talking about ? ' said 
I to the Pole who was sitting next to me. 

'It is a convict called Gdsin, who sells spirits 
here. As soon as he has made some money, he goes 
and spends it all in drink. He has a. fearful temper, 
but manages to keep pretty quiet so long as he is 
sober; when he is drunk his temper gets the better 
of him, and be becomes positively dangerous, and 
bas to be calmed down.' 

* How, pray ? ' 



- -. t. 

V' , . 


ir 1 

,V ,-«k-.' 


riliST niPKESSIONS. 51 

* Ten or more of them fall on him, and beat him 
till he is half-dead and unconscious. Then thej lay 
him on a bench and cover him with a coat*' 

* But they might kill him.' 

* Any other man would be killed, but not he. He 
is very strong — in fact, the strongest man in the prison. 
The next morning he gets up as if nothing had hap- 

* Tell me one thing,' said I. ' These people eat 
their own food and I drink my own tea — why, then, 
do they look at me as if they grudged me my tea ? ' 

'They do not grudge j'^ou your tea,' said the Pole. 
* They hate you because you are a gentleman and not 
like them. Some of them would be only too glad if 
they could pick a quarrel with you for no other rea- 
son than the one I have just stated. You must 
make up your mind to meet with a great many dis- 
agreeable things here. Their life is hard enough, 
but ours is harder still. It takes a good deal of 
Stoicism to get accustomed to it. This is neither 
the first nor the last, time that you will have been 
sneered at and insulted for buying your own food 
and tea, yet many of them do the same thing fre- 
quently, and some of them are always drinking tea. 
They have a right to do it, which you have not.' 

So saying, he rose and walked away from the 
table. In a few moments I had the opportunity of 
realising the truth of his words. 

E 2 






Haedlt had il , the Pole with whom I had been 

haTing the above conversation, left me, when Gasin 
burst into the kitchen. The sight of a drunken con- 
vict in broad daylight, and on a week-day, too, when 
everyone was expected to be at his work, in a prison 
which was noted for the strictness of its discipline, 
where the Governor might come in ismy time, where 
a subaltern officer watched over us day and night, 
and never left the prison even for an horn*, where we 
were surrounded by an army of sentinels and warders 
— in a word, where every possible precaution had been 
taken against our committing even the slightest 
breach of discipline, entirely upset all my precon- 
ceived notions about a convict prison. 

I have already mentioned that the greater part 
of the convicts knew some profession or trade, which 
they exercised during the hours when they were not 
working for the Government, and not unfrequently 
earned considerable sums. Love of money is one of 
tlie characteiifltic traits of the convict prisoner. He 
prizes money beyond everything next to liberty, and 
is never happier than when he can rattle it in his 





pocket. Without it he grows sad, restless, low- 
spirited, and will even do something desperate— rob 
his comrades, or do something worse — rather than be 
penniless. Yet, although money was such a valuable 
and much-valued object in the convict prison, it was 
a difficult one to keep. If the Major in one of his 
^ frequent visits to the prison happened to discover 

that one of the prisoners had a little hoard he im- 
mediately confiscated it. Perhaps he spent it on 
the improvement of our dietary. Anyhow, the luck- 
less owner never beheld his savings again. What 
escaped the lynx eyes of this official was almost sure 
to be stolen by some other convict. At last, how- 
ever, the men were fortunate enougli to discover, in 
the person of an old man who belonged to one of the 
numerous sects of the Greek Church, an individual 
^ whom they might safely trust with their savings. I 

[ cannot help saying here a few words about this old 

L man, although he will have nothing to do with my 

! storj. 

I He may have been about sixty years old when I 

J knew him first — a, little, shrivelled old man, with grey 

I hairs and a grey beard. I was struck by his manner, 

\ which contrasted favourably with that of his com- 

I rades, and by the wonderfully quiet and peaceful 

I look in his clear blue eyes. We have had many a 

I long talk together, and I must confess that I have 

I . seldom in the course of my life met with such a 

; ' thoroughly benevolent old man as this old Dis- 

' . , .^ _ senter was* He had been exiled to Siberia for a very 

y. '. ; r. !» .. flerious crime. His native village had been a specisd 
I "^ fitronghold of the sect to which he belonged, and was 



inhabited chiefly by Dissenters. Of late years severa 
of them had joined the Greek Church. The Govern- 
ment was naturally anxious to encourage them in 
every possible way, and great efforts were made to 
faring as many converts back into the bosom of the 
Church as possible. My old friend, together with 
several others who thought like him, resolved to * suf- 
fer for their faith,* as they called it. An orthodox 
church had just been built in the village, which they 
burnt down. The old man was arrested as one of the 
ringleaders, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to penal 
servitude. He had been a wealthy tradesman, and 
left a wife and children at home, but he left them 
without a murmur and went into exile, proud of 
having been deemed worthy to suffer for his faith. 

It was constant cause of wonder to me how this 
quiet, childlike old man could ever have been guilty 
of inc«aidiarism, sacrilege, and open rebellion against 
the Grovemment. I tried repeatedly to talk with 
him about his ^ fadth.' He always defended his re- 
ligioos opinions warmly, but without the least trace 
of bitterness or hatred, and looked upon his crime as a 
glorious deed, and the sufferings it had brought upon 
him as a martyrdom for which he would assuredly be 
rewarded sooner or later. There were many other 
Dissenters among us, mostly Siberian })easants, a 
sharp, clever set, who knew their sacred books by 
'heart, and were always ready to enter upon a contro- 
versy about tiian. They were not liked Jn the pri- 
^gOD, on acooimt of their caatankerous disposition and 
the supercilioas manner in which- they treated the 
tither convicts. My old friend differed from them 



' ■■■ H 




almost in every point. I suppose that he knew their 
sacred books as well us tliey did, and perhaps even 
better ; but he always avoided religious controversy, 
and was as pleasant, cheerful, and open-hearted a 
man as ever lived on the face of this earth. He 
often laughed, not the coarse, cynical horse-laugh in 

> which the convicts were wont to express their merri- 

ment, but a low, sweet, musical laugh, which might 
have been that of an innocent child, and suited his 

g grey hairs admirably. Perhaps I am mistaken when 

I say that we may know a person's disposition from 
their laugh. I have often noticed that a good man 
has a pleasant laugh, and vice veratu The old man 
was much respected by the convicts, who called him 
* grandfather,' and carefully avoided anything that 
might have hurt his feelings. Notwithstanding his 
outward appearance of calmness, and even cheerful- 

I ness, there was in his heart a deep well of suflFering 

I which he tried to conceal from us all, and which I 

discovered by mere chance. He lived in the same 
cell with me, and one night, it may have been about 
3 A.M., I woke up suddenly and heard a sound as of 
subdued weeping. I looked around me. The old Dis- 
senter was sitting on the stove reading his prayers 
out of a manuscript book and weeping bitterly. I 
could distinguish words of bitter sorrow between the 
sobs, such as, ' Lord, do not forsake me ! Lord, give 
me more strength ! Oh, my darling children; my dear- 
est children, shall I ever see you again I * Now, this old 
man had gradually been entrusted with the earnings of 
nearly all the convicts. They were all thieves, every 
one of them ; but it was universally believed that he 





could not steal. He was known to hide the money in 
a secret place, which nobody had as yet succeeded in 
discovering. As we became more intimate, he one day 
showed his hiding-place to me and another convict, 
a Pole. It was a curious enough contrivance. The 
planks that formed the fence which inclosed the 
prison yard were rough-hewn, and from one of them 
the knobby end of a branch protruded. To a super- 
ficial observer it might have appeared firmly con- 
nected with the plank, so that it could not be moved, 
but the old man had accidentally discovered one day 
that this knob could be taken out, leaving a hollow 
place in the wood. In this original cash-box our 
grandfsither was in the habit of hiding the money 
and carefully replacing the knob, so that nobody 
ever suspected the existence of such a capital hiding- 

But I have strayed too far from my tale. I was 
going to try and explain why the convicts' money 
seemed to bum holes in their pockets. Besides the 
difficulty of keeping it from being stolen, another 
reason is the peculiar social position of the convict. 
He longs intensely for freedom, and must go on 
living from year to year, sometimes without seeing 
the least chance of ever being able to satisfy this 
craving, or at least not for a long time. Is it, there- 
fore, to be wondered at that at times he is unable to 
resist the temptation to drown his grief for a few 
hours at least in pleasure ? I have seen many a con- 
^t work hard tout months together till he had earned 
s considerable sum — then spend every farthing of 
it in drink in one single day ; go back to his work 






the next, and toil away for months again till he had 
enough for another feast. Others, who were fond of 
dress, spent their earnings on black trousers and coats, 
print shirts, and leather belts with brass buckles. 
The convicts always dressed on holidays, and those 
who were especially proud of their fine clothes never 
failed to pay a visit to the other cells to show them- 
selves to the world. They were perfectly childish in 
their love for finery, as well as in many other things. 
I am sorry to say, however, that all those fine things 
generally disappeared in the course of the day; they 
w^re either stolen, or pawned, or sold for a mere 
trifle. The great drinking bouts took place gene- 
rally on a feast-day, or on some convict's name-day ; 
the latter festival was celebrated after the following 
manner. After rising in the morning as usual, the 
convict stuck a taper into the little candlestick which 
hung before the imiage of his patron saint, and said 
his prayers, then dressed himself in his best and pro- 
ceeded to the important business of ordering his 
dinner. Meat and fish were bought, cakes made, 
and the convict stuffed himself to the utmost capa- 
city of his stomach. He rarely invited a comrade 
to partake of his good cheer, but ate alone, vora- 
ciously, like a wild beast. Dinner over, brandy was 
set on the table, of which he partook freely, and 
then paraded about the prison, staggering and reel- 
ing, and stumbling over the benches and other 
articles of furniture that happened by accident to 
be in the way to show that he was drunk and 
enjoying himself — ^having a good time,' in short; 
for which quality, i.e. the being drunk, the others 



respected him very much. The Eussians in general 
have always much sympathy with drunken people, 
but a prisoner who is drunk is quite a hero in his 
sphere. Towards nightfall the prisoner even hired 
a musician, to show that money was no object. 
There lived in the prison a Pole who had deserted 
from his regiment. He played the Hddle tolerably 
well, and was never seen without his instrument, 
which constituted all his worldly possessions; he 
knew no other profession, and earned occasionally 
small sums by playing meny tunes to any drunken 
man who chose to hire his services. His duty on 
such occasions consisted in following his patron 
wherever he went, fiddling with all his might and 
main. He often looked weary enough, poor fellow, 
but the pitiless cry, * Go on, you have been paid for 
playing,' urged him on to new exertions. 

The convict who had made up his mind to get 
drunk on some special day might be sure that, if he 
should succeed in getting outrageously so, he would 
be put to bed by his comrades, and carefully kept 
out of the Major's way; and all this was done as a 
matter of course, without his having previously asked 
them to do it, or even thanking them for the trouble 
they had taken with him. 

The sergeant-at-arms and the invalided soldiers 
who lived in the prison winked at these revels, 
knowing from experience that the drunken man 
would be kept qniet and not allowed to create any 
disturbaBoe in the prison, and besides, if they 'had 
frohilHted them, worse things might happen. .But 
lirheie' did the liquor come from? ^ . 



It was bought in the prison from the * tapsters.* 
There were several of them, and they had a' very 
flourishing trade in spite of the comparative scarcity 
of customers. Their mercantile operations were 
ciirried on in rather an original way. The * tapster* 
liimself is as a rule a convict prisoner who knowlB 
no particular trade, but is possessed with a great 
desire to grow rich in a short time, and has perhaps 
a small sum of money at his disposal. This he re- 
solves to invest in liquor, deliberately closing his 
eyes to the considerable risk which he runs, not only 
of being severely flogged if he is found out, but also 
of losing both his merchandise and his capital. As 
he is not rich enough to hire a smuggler to work 
for him, he smuggles the liquor himself, and sells it 
at a great profit. This experiment is repeated two 
or tJiree times, and if he has succeeded in eluding 
the vigilance of the warders, his capital increases 
rapidly ; he is able to extend his operations, and to 
have agents and helpers who run all the risk while 
he has the profit. 

Among the convicts there are always many who 
have squandered every farthing, and are left without 
any resources — rniserable, wretched, ragged beings, 
who, however, possess still a cei-tain amount of 
courage and enterprise. The only thing that they 
can claim as their own is their back, and they re- 
solve to speculate with it. Such a scapegrace goes 
to the tapster and applies for a place as smuggler. 
A rich tapster has always several smugglers under 
him, and a partner somewhere in the neighbourhood 
of the prison. This partner is either a soldier or A- 




small tradesman, sometimes a woman. He is intrusted 
with a certain sum to buy liquor with, and is besides 
allowed a considerable percentage on what is sold. 
The brandy is generally bought in some obscure 
tavern, and hidden in a secret spot near the place 
where the convicts work. The partner almost in- 
variably tastes the liquor first before he delivers it 
to the smuggler, and unmercifully dilutes the rest 
with water, knowing that the convicts are not very 
particular as to the quality of their liquor provided 
the quantity they get in exchange for their money 
is not too small. When everything has been so far 
arranged the tapster directs some of his smugglers 
to wait upon his partner and to bring back as much 
liquor as they can conveniently carry. As bottles 
or vessels of any kind would attract the attention 
of the guards, and be besides rather inconvenient 
articles to carry, the smugglers have hit on the 
following ingenious way of carrying the brandy. 
Guts of oxen or cows are procured, well washed, and 
then filled with water to keep them damp and ready 
to receive the liquor, then wound round and round 
the bodies of the smugglers and concealed as much 
as possible in their most secret parts. This is perhaps 
the most difficult thing to do, as the convict is never 
for a moment alone; but he generally succeeds in de- 
ceiving both his escort and the guards. An old thief 
is rardy caught ; he is sure to bide his time and watch 
for s finvouiable opportunity. Thus, e.g., a smuggler 
is a potter by trade, and has been sent for, to mend 
a stove in town. He climbs up to the top of it, and 
winds the gats round his body, while the escort stands 







below waiting patiently for him to come down. The 

next diflSculty is to smuggle the liquor into the 

I prison, as each convict is examined by the corporal 

j on duty before he lets him pass through the prison 

gates. Sometimes lie will manage to slip through 

with his precious cargo and deliver it safely to his 

I employer, but not unfrequently the corporal has his 

suspicions, and discovers the guts with the liquor. 
The smuggler, however, is prepared for every emer- 
gency ; he has provided himself with a small coin, 
j . which he tries to slip into the corporal's hand. A 

corporal is not always inaccessible to bribery, and he 
I may let the man pass without any further remarks ; 

but if he is an honest man and knows his duty, he 
reports the case to the Major, the liquor is confis- 
cated, and the culprit severely flogged, while his 
employer remains unpunished. A smuggler never 
betrays his confederates, not from any honourable 
feeling, but simply because he knows that he would 
gain nothing by it. Generally speaking delators are 
well treated and even liked in a convict prison ; no- 
body thinks any the worse of them for reporting to 
thfe Governor what is going on in the prison, and if 
you tried to explain to a convict why a delator ought 
to be shunned as a dangerous and dishonourable 
person, he would not understand you. 

Let us suppose that the tapster has got the 
liquor at last ; he pays his smuggler and begins to 
calculate his profits. Hitherto he has had onlj 
the expense, and it is evident that if he sold only the 
i^^fjN<^*' • • «-i.v quantity of liquor which he has received his profits 

would be but small. So in order to make it pay ^ 





dilates it once more with water, and is now prepared 
to receive his customers. He has not long to wait, 
as the latter are sure to present tliemselves either 
on the first holiday or sometimes even on a week- 
day to spend the little hoard they have been working 
hard to earn. The poor prisoner has been looking 
forward impatiently to that happy day when he will 
at last be able to drink his fill, and the thought of 
the pleasures that await him have soothed him when 
he felt cross and irritable, and have rendered light 
many a dark hour. At last the glorious day breaks ; 
he has managed to keep his money safe, and runs 
with it to the tapster. A bottle of liquor only twice 
diluted is set before him, but as he goes on drinking 
the bottle is filled with water, till at last it is nearly 
all water. A glass of liquor costs five or six times 
more than in a tavern, and it is not difficult to cal- 
culate how many glasses the convict must drink, 
and how much money he must spend, before he gets 
drunk. Owing to the long period of enforced ab- 
stinence intoxication sets in at a much earlier period- 
than might reasonably be expected, and he goes on 
drinking till he has spent all his money. He then 
pawns first his new clothes, for the tapster is also a 
pawnbroker, then his old things, and finally the 
articles of clothing that have been provided by Uie 
GrovemmenL When he has nothing left that might 
be disposed of, he betakes himself to his bed, to 
awaken the next, day with a terrible headachy. He 
again pays the tapsters visit, this time to beg for a 
drop of liquor,' just one mouthful of spirits, to. take 
away the racking pain, but the spirit-seller remains 

>• i?. 




inexorable, and the poor man goes away sadly to his 
work, and plods on and toils for months to come, 
feeding on the memory of that glorious day when he 
drank to his heart's content, and beginning gradually 
to look forward to another bright day, a repetition of 
the first, which is still far ofif, but which will come 
some time if he will only be patient and save his 

Nor does the tapster forget himself. He waits 
till he has earned a considerable sum, some thirty or 
fifty roubles, and then sends for more wine, which 
he does not mix with water this time, as lie means 
I *. to drink it all himself. A day is fixed for the feast— 

the subaltern officers have been bribed to permit it — 
and there is much eating, drinking, and music going 
on. As soon as the tapster has finished his own 
liquor he goes to one of his confreres^ who has been 
expecting his visit for some time, then to a third 
and fourth, and so on till he has spent his last copeck. 
All the time this revelling lasts (and it sometimes 
lasts for days), his comrades take great pains to keep 
him out of the way if the Major should come in un- 
expectedly; but in spite of their precautions the 
Major, who is always suspecting mischief, does find 
him out occasionally. He is immediately taken to 
the guard-room and searched i his money, if he has 
any left, is confiscated, and he himself flogged. The 
next day he re-appears in the prison as if nothing 
had happened, and takes up his profession as usual. 
Some of these reveUers who are rich will occasion^ 
ally ^ude the vigilance of the officers, and bribe their 
escort to accompany them to some haunt of vice in 


. e ' ,. 



the saburbe of the town instead of going to work. 
Here a feast is prepared, ladies are invited, and the 
convict eats, drinks, and flirts to his heart's content. 
Such excursions are very rare, however, as they cost 
a great deal and are difficult to manage, and the 
admirers of the fair sex generally prefer cheaper and 
less dangerous interviews with their sweethearts. 

Soon after my arrival in the prison I had noticed 
a remarkably handsome young convict. He might 
almost be called a lad, seeing that he was hardly 
twenty-three years old. There was something so 
girlish in his blue eyes, regular features, and delicate 
complexion that I could hardly bring myself to be- 
lieve that this innocent-looking boy could have com- 
mitted a crime grievous enough to justify his being 
among us. And yet he was in the * Special Depart- 
ment,' which means as much as being sentenced to 
penal servitude for life. He knew no trade, yet he 
never was without money. He was one of the laziest 
and most untidy beings I have ever seen. His 
name was Sir6tkin. If any one made him a present 
of some article of clothing, e.g., a red shirt, Sir6tkin 
always seemed delighted with it, and would strut 
about the prison to exhibit his new clothes. He 
never drank or played at cards, hardly ever quarrelled 
with any one, but spent most of his leisure time 
walking up and down in the open space behind 
the prison, his hands in his pockets, looking thought^ 
ful and preoccupied. What he could posdbly be 
^thinking about is more than I can say. ^I once or 
twice tried to speak to him out of ouriosity, ask some 
trivial question, or make some remark, be always 


*ri^ ..1 


rutST uiPitEssxoxa. 



answered me respectfully, not like the other con- 
victs ; but his answers were always short and simple, 
and he looked as shy as a child of ten years with 
whom a grown-up person would suddenly begin a 
serious conversation. Whenever he had any money 
he never spent it on useful things ; I never knew 
him to buy a pair of new boots or to get his jacket 
mended, but he would invest it in kalatcfai or ginger- 
bread, and sit down and eat his goodies like a child 
of seven years. * Oh, Sirotkin, Sirotkin,' the other 
convicts used often to say to him, * you are an orphan 
from Kasan.' * 

At night, when all the others were at their work, 
he would roam about the cells without speaking: 
to anyone in a listless apathetic way. If anyone 
spoke to him or laughed at him (by no means an 
unusual occurrence), he would leave the room silently, 
and perhaps with a blush if the jest had been too 

One day I was ill and lying in my bed in the 
hospital. Sir6tkin happened to be my neighbour, 
and one evening in the dusk he became quite talka- 
tive and animated, and told me how he had enlisted, 
and how bitterly his mother cried when he left her, 
and what a hard time he had as a recruit. He added 
that he had hated that life because his officers treated 
the young recruit badly, and the colonel was always 
dissatisfied with him. 

^ But how did it all end!? ' asked L ^ And what 


> A pfon which caiinot be traodated. .Bii^tkin ^rnwoB Uterally 
' that irliieh belongs to a yoiiiig orphan.' '* An 'orphan from Kasan ' 
18 a prorerbial erpteasiou, like * a witch from KieflP/ &c. 

'* ; 

4 ' - 



«. * 1U(*' 

criiiie can you haTe committed "^ to! be sentenced "^ to 
pebal servitnde for life, my poor Sir6tkin ? ' 

* I only served in the regiment one year, Alex- 
ander Petrovitcb, and I am here for murdering my 
colonel, Grigory Petr6vitch.' 

' > I heard that story, Sirdtkin, but would not be- 
lieve it. How can you be a murderer ? ' 

*It is quite true, Alexander Petr6vitch. My 
life was so very hard that I was driven to do it/ 

* But how do the other recruits bear it ? Nobody 
expects a soldier^s life to be very easy, but they get 
accustomed to its hardships, and by and by become 
good soldiers. I fear, my friend, that your mother 
spoiled you, and stuffed you with milk and. ginger- 
bread till you were eighteen years old.' 

* Yes, sir, my mother did love me dearly. I have 
heard since that after I left her she took to her bed 
and never left it again. . . . Well, my life was ter- 
ribly hard. IMy colonel took a dislike to me — ^I do 
not know why — ^and I was always being punished. 
And yet I tried to do my duty. I did, indeed; I- 
was always obedient, never touched brandy, and never 
stole anything. But they seemed all to be such a 
bard-hearted set, nobody had any pity for me, and L 
had no place where I could hide myself and have a 
good cry. Sometimes I would creep into a; comer, 
and cry a little there. One day, or jather one 
night, I was on guard. It was in autmqp, the wind 
whistled in the trees, and the night was. sa.dark. that 

>>.'* V - I could see nothing at alL \ \ was walking: up and^ . ^^MUk 
down aU Df my8S£ and feeling 130 wretbheaiv I can- '?^ 


t • 










from my shoulder, unscrewed the bayonet, a£d laid 
it on the ground ; then I pulled off my right boot, 
put the muzzle to my breast, leaned heavily on it, 
pressing down the trigger at the same time with my 
big toe. It missed fire I I examined the gun care- 
fully, cleaned it, loaded it afresh, and again put it to 
my breast. The powder flashed in the pan, but the 
gun missed fire again. Well, I put on my boot, 
shouldered my gun, screwed on the bayonet, and 
again marched up and down. And then I made up 
my mind to do something desperate only to have 
done with that wretched life. Half an hour later up 
comes the colonel at the head of the patrol. What 
does he do but swear at me for not carrying my gun 
properly. So I took it in both hands, and stuck 
the bayonet right into him. I was severely flogged 
— I was sentenced to four thousand strokes — and 
then sent to the Special Department.' 

His tale was true. He would not have been sent 
to the Special Department if he had not committed 
a capital crime, that was certain. Sir6tkin was theV 
only good-looking fellow of the lot. There were ) 
fifteen prisoners in the Special Department, and with/ 
the exception of two or three they w6re perfectly 
horrible to look at. I may, perhaps, mentioasome 
of them later on. Sir6tkin was a great friend of 
G&sin, the hero of the present chapter and the same 
who burst into the kitchen and ups^t /all: my ideas 
about priison life. ' - V ^~ ( v ^ ^ 

; This Qiapi ^aa:^ terrible beix)g^|Sei.^lwa^^^^ 
me with a iTeeling of inexpressible i^eim I do 

4' .. 



»^ . 






not think that there are many like him in this 
world — ^it would become too much like hell if this 
were the case. I remember seeing in Tob61'sk two 
£imous robbers and murderers, K^meneff and Soke- 
16ff ; but neither of them produced on me the same 
impression as Cr&sin. Somehow or other he always 
reminded me of a gigantic spider. He was a Tartar 
by birth, the strongest man in the prison, of medium 
height and very broad in proportion, with an^.ab&oir 
mallybig head. His gait was clumsy and shambling, 
and he had a peculiarly disagreeable hang-dog look 
about him which made him even more repulsive. The 
convicts told wonderful tales about him ; he was 
knowu to have served in the army, and to have 
escaped from the mines at Nertschinsk. He had 
been exiled to Siberia more than once, had es- 
caped repeatedly, had taken a false name, and 
finally had been sent to the Special Department in 
our prison. It was asserted that he was passion-' 
ately fond of murdering young children, that he 
would entice his victim into a lonely place, frighten I 
and torture it there, and after having enjoyed the 
agonies and terror of the poor little thing, proceed 
to kill it — slowly, deliberately, prolonging its mifier- 
ings as much as possible. Perhaps aU these tales 
were without foundation, perhaps they had sprung 
from the impreasion which O&sin produced on his 
comrades; but they seemed to be in accordance with 
his whole being. So long as he was sober ^hovfilways 
; bdaved leoiaibbly well, and even Ap8tentaitio]o|sly 
avoided qnarreb and fights, perhaps becipso hp-l 
thought himself too much superior to the others io 






i honour them by quarrelling or 'fighting with "^ them.' 

He spoke very little, and hardly ever about himself. 
His movements were calm, slow, and self-possessed. 

He was shrewd and clever, and there was a 

haughty, sarcastic look in his face, especially when 

he smiled. He sold liquor, and was one of the 

\ wealthiest tapsters in the place, but never gotxlrunk 

[ more often than twice in the course of a year, when 

the whole brutality of his nature seemed to break 
I out. He generally began by making sarcastic remarks 

I about other people in their hearing ; these seemed to 

I have been carefully prepared a long time ago, so 

cruel and bitter were they ; then, as he became more 
intoxicated, he grew violent, and snatching up a 
knife would attack everybody who came in his way. 
At first the convicts woidd run away from him and 
[ hide themselves, till at last they grew tired of these 

f periodical attacks of drunken fury, and resolved to put 

an end to them. Accordingly, at the next paroxysm, 
ten or more of his room-fellows sprang upon him 
and began to beat him. It is impossible to imagine I 
anything more cruel or brutal than this beating ; * 
they beat him on the chest, the stomach, the head, 
etcJ, and never left off belabourmg himitJLn'.he-.fell- 
senseless to the ground. Any oth^ir mian wrbuld have 
been killed by the blows, but not so Giisin.^:! After the 
punishment he was wrapped up in'his fur coiett'^ai^d 
carried to his pallet, where he was left to sle^p^off his 
intoxication. The n^ day he wbuld:^iet\iptad'tisuaX ^ 
ahd^^ abbut his WOTt,' lobHhjg'^i^^ 
than UBiial.'' Every tinio Ct&sin jp)ft^ai1mk'KB fellbwi?; 
prisoners knfew that that dayvwduld'end badly^for!/ 


' . ; ■ . f ■ ' • ' ' • ■"■■.,■■>■•'■>■'. • .-" . 



-lum;! He knew it too, aDd still went on dtinking 
And getting drunk. Some years had passed away 
tfaus, when at last it became evident that CWsin had 
lost much of his pristine vigour. He b^;an to com- 
plain abont varioos aches and pains, grew weaker 
and weaker, . and spent most of his timeiin. Uie 
bospitaL < He is growing old,' the convicts would 

He entend the kitchen, followed by the wretched 
P(de with his fiddle^ and stood still in the middle 
of tiie floor, casting a scrutinising glance around 
him. Ereiybody was silent. At> last his eye fell 
npon my ctmuade and myself; he scowled at us with 
an ex[a«9sioa of hatred such as I have seldom seen 
in any hmnsn &ce, and staggering np to the table 
he said in Rossian, with a self-complacent smile as 
if he had hit upon something very ingeniom : 

'\ ' May I ask you where you get the money &om 

to pay for yoor tea ? ' 

My comrade and myself looked (dlently at each 
other, thmkmg it best not to answer him, as a 
contradictory answer would only have driven luni 

'Have you got money here with you? Have 

yon got much money, hey?' he went on aakmg, 

'Did you come here to dnnk tea? Did you 

eoooe h^e on porpose to dnnk tea ? Answer me, 

^ jou .,' ^, ^ f 

^Att Vila ,Iie iptw that we were zeaolved not ia answer 

|^JWfe«^fe'M^>3«!v «>!??« of Jti 

^ ?-^ In Iks &» and ^nonbled wit^i ^la, 

i / to^ bappensd to stand neax htm 






was used by the cooks to lay on it the hunches of 
bread that were cut off for the convicts' dinnet^, 
but it was empty now. He seized it with both 
hands and flourished it over our heads. In another 
moment our skulls would have been shattered and 
our brains dashed out. All the convicts sat motion- 
less and silent in their places — not a voice was raised 
in our defence. They all knew that if we had been 
killed they would have had to bear the consequences 
as well as Gasin, as there would have been no end to 
the trials and cross-questionings, etc. ; but such was 
their hatred towards us that they would rather have 
suffered anything than have saved our lives. They 
evidently enjoyed our critical position. 

But things turned out differently, happily for us. 
He was just going to let the tray fall on our heads, 
when a voice was heard in the passage, shouting, 

' Gasin, they have stolen the brandy I ' 

He dashed the tray on the floor, and rushed out 
of the kitchen like a madman. 

' God has saved them ! ' said the convicts, and I 
often heard them repeat this saying among them- 
selves, I could never learn whether the alarm which 
was given from without had been given on purpose 
to. save us, or whether the liquor had indeed been 




FIR.-T nrrilE.SSIONS (^continued). 

Amin the lait roll liad ]>een called the convicts were 
locked up in their cells till next morning. This 
ceremony of roll-calling^ was generally performed by 
a sergeant -at-arm?. assisted by two soldiers. Some- 
times it to-.^k place in the courtyard, when it was 
superintendr^d by the officer ; but more frequently 
the roll was called in the prison, as it happened to- 
day. Calling the roll may seem a simple enough 
performance to many, but to our sergeant and his 
assistants it presented many and great difficulties. 
They made repeated mistakes, and had to come back 
several times before they were quite sure that we 
were all present. At last they withdrew and locked 
us in. 

There were about thirty men in our cell, and as 
it was too early to go to sleep we were evidently 
expected to find some employment for ourselves. 

The only warder who remained in the prison was 
the invalided soldier whom I have mentioned above. 
There was besides a senior in each cell who had been 
elected by the Major from among the convicts for 
his good behaviour. It happened not unfrequently. 

• 'T 


however, that the senior was caught infringing some 
rule or regulation, when he was flogged oind igno- 
miniously discarded, and another elected in his place. 
Our senior was Akim Akimytch, who to my great 
astonbhment repeatedly tried to assert his authority 
by scolding the convicts, who only laughed at him i 
for his pains. The invalided soldier knew his : 
position better, and sat quietly in his comer, mend- , 
ing a boot. He seldom made any remarks, and the 
men seemed to ignore him altogether. I was for- 
cibly struck on this first day of my new life by the 
curious fact that all those who are not convicts and 
only come into daily contact with them, beginning 
with the sentinel at oiu: gates and ending with the 
Governor, should have the most exaggerated ideas 
about convict prisoners. They seem to be constantly 
haunted by the fear that the convicts are on the 
point of committing some horrible crime, some des- 
perate deed, and take vengeance on the unoffending 
causes of their terror by bullying and browbeating 
them without the slightest provocation on their side. 
The prisoners are not ignorant of the terror they , 
inspire, and are rather proud of having such a repu- ; 
tation. Yet they love and respect those superiors \ 
best who are not afraid of them and show by their I 
behaviour that they trust them. I remember that ' 
once or twice during my stay in the prison the Cro- 
vemor or some other officer visited us without an 
escort, and I shall never forget the respectful^ I 
might almost say enthusiastic, reception which the 
convicts gave him. They saw at once that he trusted 
them and did not fear them as the others did, and 

74 la'RIKD ALIVK. 

tbey were grateful for it. I do not wonder that 
people who have never come into contact with con- 
victs, and in whose minds the words ^convict prisoner' 
are associated witli horrible tales of brutal crime, 
cruelty, incendiarism, highway robbery, should ex- 
perience a certain sensation of fear and disgust at 
the sight of a group of men accoutred in the gro- 
tesque prison garb, with half-shaved heads and 
marked on the brow and cheeks with the signs of 
their shame : but there is a good deal of exagger- 
ation in their fear. A convict, even if he should 
1x5 the rao^t daring of men, does not pounce upon 
a fellow-creatiire and stab him without any pro- 
vocation, except in very rare cases, when the deed 
is committed not from any personal motive of 
revenge and hatred, but merely for the sake of 
saving Mmself from imminent punishment by being 
brought up for trial for a fresh crime. I remember 
a ciuious psychological fact of this kind which came 
imder my notice in the convict prison. 

There was among us a military prisoner who had 
l)een sent to prison for two years for some breach of 
discipline. He was one of the greatest braggarts 
and cowards which the world has ever seen, two 
qualities which are seldom found combined in a 
Russian soldier. DoutofiF (that was his name) left 
the prison at the expiration of his sentence and went 
back to his regiment. But, as is frequently the case, 
his morals had not been improved by his stay in the 
prison. Three weeks after he had left it he com- 
mitted a fresh crime — picked a lock, and insulted his 
officer. He was brought up before a court-martial 


» t 

FIIiST lAirKESsiONS. 75 

and sentenced to run the gauntlet. He was a cowardy 
as I have said before, and mortally afraid of physical 
pain. He managed to secrete a knife about his 
person, and on the eve of the fatal day he attempted 
to stab one of his officers as he entered the cell. He 
was perfectly aware that by this act he only aggra- 
vated his punishment, and yet he did it merely for the 
sake of having the terrible moment put oflF for a few 
days at the utmost. He did not even wound the 
officer, nor had he had, I suppose, the least intention 
of doing so. 

I have frequently had the opportunity of observingN 
convicts on the eve of the fatal day or even a few 
hours before they were led out to be flogged, and 
nearly every one of them was in a terrible state of i 
excitement. I used to meet tliem in tlie hospital, / 
of which I was frequently an inmate in those days. 
As it may appear strange that a sick convict should 
be flogged, I must explain here that it was the custom 
for prisoners who were awaiting their trial, or who 
had been sentenced to the bastinado, to take refuge 
in the hospital. A. prisoner who is awaiting his 
trial is even worse off than a regular convict ; he is 
pent up with many others in a small, ill-lighted, ill- 
ventilated room, and insufficiently fed and clothed. 
The hospital, dreary as it is, is still a kind of 
refuge where he can rest for a short time imder the 
care of the physician. It is well known amongv^ 
Bussian convicts that their best friend is the doctor. 
He never' makes any difference between them and 
other people, as nearly everybody else does, involun- 
tarily perhaps, with the exception of the labouring 


classes. Thev never blame a convict for his crime, 
whatever he may have done, but forgive him every- 
thing for the sake of his sufferings and his punish- 
^ ment. In their eves this is a sufficient atonement 
even for the greatest crime that a mortal can commit. 
The popular name for a criminal is the * unfortunate 
one,' and a crime goes by the name of a * misfor- 
tune.' When at last the prisoners are obliged to 
leave tlie hospital to meet their fiite, some try to 
liide Their feelings from pride, but they rarely suc- 
ceed in deceiving their comrades, who sympathise 
with them and are silent from pity. I once knew a 
vouncr soldier, a convict who had been sentenced to 
the full number of strokes for murder. He dreaded 
his punishment so much that on the eve of the fatal 
day he swallowed a tumbler of brandy mixed with 
snuff. I must observe here that it is the custonT^ 
araoni,' convicts to get drunk before they are flogged, , 
as there exists a superstition to the effect that an 
intoxicated man does not feel the pain as sharply as^ 
he would if he were sober. The liquor is smuggled 
in long beforehand, and the criminal would rather go 
without the necessaries of life for days than deny 
himself the glass of spirit which be drinks a quarter 
of an hour before he is flogged. The poor young 
fellow was seized at once with violent vomiting and 
hemorrhage ; he was taken in a state of perfect un- 
consciousness to the hospital, which he never left 
again. In the course of a few days symptoms of 
consumption declared themselves, and he died six 
months later in the prime of life. The doctors 
who treated him were totally at a loss to account for 


i f - .. -^ 


this sudden outbreak of the disease in an individual 
who had hitherto been always in good health. 

But while I am speaking of the cowardice of 
the convicts and their dread of physical pain, I 
must not omit to say that there are some who are 
perfect Spartans in their indifference to it. Several 
of these cases have come under my own observation, 
one of which particularly has left a deep impression 
on my nodnd. One fine summer day the rumour 
spread in our wards that the famous robber Orloff 
was going to be flogged that evening, and that he 
would be brought into our ward afterwards. The 
patients were naturally much excited, and I myself 
could not help feeling rather interested in the news, 
as I had heard a great many wonderful tales about 
his courage and his deeds. Fortunately for man-\ 
kind, there are few people like this human monster, ; 
who had murdered old men and young children from \ 
no other motive than that of satisfying his own thirst / 
for blood. He had an iron power of will, and was 
proud of it. He had been caught at last, convicted 
of numerous crimes, and sentenced to the full number 
of strokes (4,000). It was night when they brought 
him in, and the candles had been lighted in the ward. 
Orloff was almost unconscious, deathly pale ; his 
coal-black hair was all knotted and tangled. His 
back presented a terrible aspect ; it was swollen and 
of a deep livid colour. The convicts tended him 
carefully all through the night, applying cool com- 
presses to his bruised back, turning him on his side 
when he wanted to move, and giving him medicine. 
They could not have been more watchful and tender 


if he had been their own brother. The next day he 
recovered consciousness, and to my great astonish- 
ment was able to take a few tunis up and down the 
ward. He had received at once one half of the 
strokes, and the doctor only stopped the execution 
when he saw that the man was half-dead and would 
nndoubtedlv have succumbed had it been carried on 
any further, especially as he was of slim build and 
delicate constitution, and much weakened by his 
long captivity while awaiting his trial. Yet, in spite 
of all this, Orloff quickly recovered his strength. 
He wished to be well soon — he willed it, in fact, and 
he accompliihed it. I made his acquaintance from 
curiosity, and studied him closely for a whole week. 
He was a curious subject for a psychologist to study. 
I remember seeing once in Tob6Fsk another cele- 
brated criminal who had been captain of a band of 
robl»ers. There was nothing manly about him, nothing 
even slightly suggestive of a higher life. His whole^ 
heart and soul were bent upon satisfying his loath- 
some appetites, beast was written in his face, and I 
am sure that anyone who had happened to stand I 
near bim without knowing who he was would at : 
(•nee have been repelled by the animal expression of; 
his face. He had cut many a man's throat without 
hesitation, yet I am almost persuaded that he would 
Lave trembled with fear at the thought of punish- 
ment. Orloflf was quite the reverse ; in him the 
will had triumphed over the flesh and conquered it — 
he scorned pain and suffering, and respected the 
aiithority of no human being. His energy was 
perfectly wonderful. He never rested till he reached 

"?' " ■'« -Ji^V ■• 



his aim. I was mncb struck by his supercilious 
manner, and the almost preternatural calmness with 
which he regarded everything. He never bragged 
about his exploits, although he could not help know- 
ing that the other convicts looked up to him with 
admiration. I asked him many questions about 
himself, which he answered readily, telling me that 
he was anxious to get well as soon as possible, so 
as to be able to go through the rest of his pun- 
ishment. He had feared at first that he would 
die under it. * But now,' added he, winking at 
me, 'when it is all over I shall start for Nert* 
schinsk with a party of prisoners and escape on the 
road. I have quite made up my mind to run away, 
indeed I have. If only my back would get well 
quickly I ' And during the five days he was in our 
ward he looked forward eagerly to the time when 
he might leave it again. He was full of fun and 
liked a joke. I tried once or twice to speak to him 
about his exploits; this was evidently a sore point 
with him, but nevertheless he always answered me 
readilv. But when it dawned on him that I was 
appealing to his conscience, his whole manner 
changed at once ; he stared at me with an expression 
of mingled pride, contempt, and even pity, as^ if J 
had suddenly become in his eyes a miserable, silly 
little boy to whom he could not talk as he would 
have done to a grown-up man. A moment later he 
burst into a good-humoured laugh, and I ana afraid 
that he may often have laughed at the remembrance 
of my words. He left the hospital long before his 
back was well, and as I happened to be leaving at 



the same time we walked part of the way together. 
He shook hands with ine at parting, which was a 
sign of great favour on his part. 

When we were locked up for the night, our cell 

suddenly assumed a more homelike and comfortable 

aspect. Night is the only time when a convict feels 

at home in his prison. During the day be is always 

on the alert, always expecting a sudden irruption, 

an unwelcome visit from tlie officers on duty. But 

as soon as the doors were locked everybody sat down 

quietly in his own place, and almost every one got out 

some work. The room was suddenly lighted up, as 

each man had his own candle and candlestick, the 

latter being frequently made of wood. The air grew 

worse as the night advanced. In one corner a group 

of men squatted round a small piece of carpet which 

served as card-table. There is almost in every cell 

a convict who is the fortunate owner of a square bit 

of carpet, a candle, and a pack of horribly greasy 

cards, all of which articles are designated collectively 

by the name of ' maiddn.' A maidan is let for the 

night for fifteen copecks. The men always gambled 

high, each player laying down before him a heap of 

copper coins, and never leaving the game till he had 

either won or lost everything. Sometimes these card 

parties would last all night and only come to an end 

when the doors were unlocked in the early morning. 

There were in our cell, as well as in the other cells of 

the prison, beggars — poor wretches who had either 

gambled away all their money or spent it in drink, 

or else had been born beggars. When I speak of 

men being born beggars, I mean to say that in our 



nation, even under the most favourable and excep- 
tional circumstances, there are, and always will be, 
certain remarkable individuals whose fate it is to be 
always poor, always beggars, even if they should try 
hard to earn their living in some honourable way. 
Their clothes are always shabby, and they themselves 
seem perfectly unable to help themselves and to 
assume a more independent position. It seems to 
have been decided for them by fate at their birth 
that they were never to have a will of their own, 
and even if they should make a faint attempt at 
having one that they should never carry it out, 
but remain the slaves of other stronger wills than 
their own. 

As soon as a maiden was arranged, one of these 
drudges would immediately come forward and offer 
his services. He was hired, for ^ve copecks a night, 
to mount guard in the passage, and to give the 
alarm to the gamblers in case the Major or one of 
the oflBcers on duty should come in. Not unfre- 
quently the poor fellow had to stand for six or seven 
hours on a bitter cold winter night in a dark passage, 
listening attentively to each noise or sound from 
without, for sometimes the Major caught sight of the 
candles from outside, and burst into the prison like 
a whirlwind. In such cases it would have been too 
late to put out the candles, hide the maiddn, and 
pretend to be asleep. However, as a negligent sen- 
tinel was always cruelly beaten by the irate players, 
such interruptions were cozapaiatively rare. Five 
^'t-..^ ' i copecks is a ridiculously small fee, even for a convict 

prison ; but what struck me m<^t was the cruelty and 






selfishness of the men, which sliowed itself in many 
'■^thi?r cases besides this particular one. * You have 
taken the money, nnd must do the work,' was an 
irrefutable argumeut. For his paltry price, the 
employer considered himself authorised to demand 
not only more than the full amount of work to which 
the other had pledged himself, but thought that he 
bestowed a favour on his drudge by employing him. 
The drunken reveller who scattered his money right 
and left without hesitation invariably cheated the 
poor fellow who had ser\'ed him out of one-third of 
his due. I have seen this done frequently in other 
places. t<x>5 not only in a prison. 

I have already said that almost everyone in our 
room was doing something or other, with the excep- 
tion of the card-players and four or five men who 
lay down to sleep. !My place on the pallet happened 
to be next the door, and I had Akim Akimytcli for 
my vU-^A'vis, He worked diligently till 10 or 11 p.m. 
making a coloured paper lantern, which had been 
ordered by some one in the town. He was a capital 
workman, and very clever with his fingers. When 
he had done his task, he carefully put away his tools, 
spread out his mattress, said his prayers, and com- 
posed himself to sleep. ^ly left-hand neighbours 
were six Caucasians who had been sentenced to 
penal servitude for highway robberies. Two of them 
were Lesghines, one a Tshetshenetz, and three Tai^tars 
from Dagestan. The Tshetshenetz was a beetle- 
browed, sulky-looking fellow, who spoke to no one, 
but looked daggers at everybody, and smiled in a 
particularly unpleasant sardonic fashion. One of 




:*«r • 

FiKST i3iria-ssioxs. 83 

the Lesghines was an old man with a long, sharp, 
hooked nose, which gave him very much the appear- 
ance of a bird of prey. His comrade Nourra had 
impressed me very pleasantly the very first day I saw 
him. He was a middle-aged man, rather short of 
stature but with strong bones, fair-haired with light 
blue eyes, tlie complexion of a Finnish woman, and 
a tumed-up nose. His legs were crooked, as is often 
the case with people who spend most of their life on 
i horseback, and his body perfectly covered with scars 

I from old wounds. Although he had belonged nomi-. 

. ^ nally to one of the so-called peaceful tribes in the Cau- 

casus, he had been constantly in the habit of joining 
the rebellious tribes secretly, and fighting with them 
against tlie Russians. He was a clever workman 
and a gi*eat favourite with the other convicts, who 
liked him for his pleasant, cheerful disposition. He 
( was a thoroughly honest, noble-minded man, and a 

dishonest, filthy, or vicious action, or the aspect of a 
drunken convict, would rouse his indignation. Yet 
he never quarrelled with the ofiFender, but merely 
turned away in silent disgust. He was very pious, 
never omitted to say his prayers, always kept the 
Mahomedan fasts rigorously, and would not unfre- 
quently spend whole nights in prayer. The convicts 
had nicknamed him * Nourra the Lion.' He was per- 
suaded that he would be sent back to his home in 
the Caucasian mountains at the expiration of his 
term, and I think would have died of grief if he had 
been told that he would never see his own country 
* *'" again. I noticed him on the first day of my arrival, 

and it would have been difficult not to notice his 



% * 



kind face, beaming with sympath}', among all the 
sullen scowling countenances which surrounded Die. 
Half an hour after my arrival he came up to me and 
patted me on the shoulder with a good-humoured 
grin. I was at first at a loss to explain this demon- 
stration, especially as he knew very little Russian. 
A short time later he came up again, grinned at me, 
and patted me again on the shoulder ; and so on, ad 
infinitum^ for the next three days. I found out 
afterwards that he had tried to express his sympathy, 
and to tell me that he would take mc under his pro- 
tection and be my friend. Dear, kind Nourra I The 
Tartars from Dagestan were three in number, and all 
three brothers. Two of them were middle-aged men, 
but the third, Alei, was only twenty-two years old, and 
looked even vouns^er than his aj^e. He was one of 
the handsomest men I have ever seen, with a won- 
derfully attractive, clever face, which was the image 
of his beautiful soul. He was my next neighbour on 
the pallet, and I felt grateful to Providence for 
having given me such a neighbour. His smile was 
so sweet and childlike, and his large black eyes had 
such a tender, loving expression, that I always felt 
comforted, even in my darkest moods, when their 
sympathetic gaze met mine. One day, when he was 
still at home, his eldest brother (he had five brothers, 
and two had been sent to some other prison) ordered 
him to take his sword and mount his horse, and fol- 
low him. A Caucasian mountaineer is trained to 
obey his elders blindly and without asking any ques- 
tions, and Alei followed his brothers without even 
wishing to know where they were going. They were 

r • ,t 


bound on a plundering expedition. A wealthy Ar> 
menian merchant was going to pass on the high road. 
They hid themselves in an ambuscade, attacked the 
merchant, murdered him and his escort, and carried 
off the spoil. The affair got noised abroad ; they were 
all six arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 
penal servitude in Siberia. As there had been some 
extenuating circumstances in Alei's case, bis punish- 
ment was less severe than his brothers', and he was 
sentenced only to four years' hard labour. His bro- 
thers were very fond of him, but they treated him 
more as if he had been their son than their brother. 
He was their only comfort in their exile, and when- 
ever their eyes lighted upon him their usually grim 
and sullen faces relaxed into a smile. They seldom 
spoke to him, as he was in their eyes only a boy, and 
too young to understand serious matters ; but when 
they did exchange a few words with him I could see 
by the softened expression of their &ces tiiat they 
were joking gently with him, as one would joke with 
a young child. They always looked at each other 
and smiled good-humouredly after listening to his 
answer. His respect for them was so great^i^t &e 
hardly ever dared to address them, but waited mo- 
destly till they spoke to him. When I think of the 
terrible surroundings among which this boy lived for 
four years, where the very air which he breathed was 
tainted with vice, I cannot but wonder that he should 
have remained so pure in heart, so honest and loving. 
Perhaps he was kept from falling by his strong, 
manly nature and a keen innate perception of what 
was right and wrong. He was as chaste as a viriiii^ 



At the sight of a cynical^ impure, or dishonest action, 
his eyes would sparkle with indignation, which made 
them look handsomer than usual, lie never quar- 
relled with anyone, and though his proud, indepen- 
dent nature would have keenly resented any insult that 
might have been offered to him, lie always avoided 
getting mixed up in a quarrel, lie treated me at first 
with distant politeness. I tried to talk a little to 
him now and then, and we soon grew more intimate. 
In the course of a few mouths he leiimed to speak 
fiussian quite well, a power whicli was more than his 
brothers ever attainted during all the time they were 
in prison. He struck me from tlie first as being a 
very clever lad, mcniest and refined in his feelings, 
and of a thoughtful turn of mind. I always looked 
upon Alei as upon a being who was altogether far 
above the average human beings, and I shall always 
look back upon our meeting and being together as 
one of the happiest meetings of my life. There are 
some natures which I think must be especially blessed 
by God ; they seem unable to turn to the bad, and 
one never need feel anxious about them. I feel per- 
fectly sure about Alei. I wonder where he is now. 

One evening, long after my arrival in the prison, 
I was lying on my pallet in a brown study. Alei', 
who was seldom idle, was lying by my side, doing 
nothing, as it happened to be one of their Maho- 
medan £sLstrdays, when they were forbidden to work* 
He was lying on his back with his hands clasped 
behind his bead, deep in thought* Suddenly be 
asked me: 

* Don't you feel very sad ? ' 


I looked at him in amazement; it was sso unlike 
Alei, who was always so thoughtful, and so afraid of 
hurting other people's ft»olings, to ask such. a ques- 
tion. But when I glanced more attentively at his 
face, I saw at once that he had asked that question 
not from idle curiosity, but because his own heart 
was full of sweet, sad memories and unspo^akably 
bitter grief. I told him so at once. Jfe sighed, 
and smiled sadly. I liked his smile, it was so tender 
and loving. Wlien l)c smiled he exhibited two rows 
of pearly white teeth, which the greatest beauty in 
the world might have envied him. 

' Well, Alei", I dare say you have been thinking 
about Dagestan, and how they celebrate the feast 
there to-day ? ' 

* Yes,' replied he, in an enthusiastic tone, and 
his eyes began to sparkle. * How do you know what 
I have been thinking about ? ' 

* It is easy enough to see. Would you not rather 
be there than here to-day ? ' 

* Oh, do not speak of it.' 

* I suppose you have beautiful flowers there now. 
It must be like a Paradise.' 

' Oh, please do not speak of it.' The poor lad 
was much excited. 

* Tell me, Alei, have you a sister? ' 

* Yes ; but why do you want to know ? ' 

' She must be very handsome, if she is at all like 

* Like me ! She is the handsomest woman in all 
Dagestan. You never saw such a beauty in your 
life. ]My mother was a very handsome wom^a.^ 



* Did your mother love you ? ' 

*0h, don't ask rae such a question. I was lier 
favourite child ; she loved me more than my sister 
and mv other brothers. I fear that she is dead 
now ; she must be dead, for she came to me in my 
sleep last night, and cried over me.' 

He broke off suddenly, and did not speak again 
that night. But ever since that evening he always 
sought a pretext for speaking to me, aUhough he 
never began the conversation. Perhaps he thought 
it would be taking too great a liberty with me to 
speak first without l>eing spoken to. I liked to ask 
him questions about the Caucasus and his old life. 
His brothers never interfered with our talk, and 
seemed rather to feel flattered that I should take 
such an interest in Alei. In the course of time 
they also grew very affectionate towards me. Alei 
helped me in my outdoor work, and was very atten- 
tive and obliging to me indoors. It was evident that 
he was delighted to be able to do something for me 
and give me pleasure. He was very clever with his 
fingers, and had learned to sew, make boots, and even 
became a tolerably good joiner. His brothers praised 
him, and were proud of him. 

I said one day to him, * Alei, why don't you 
learn to read and write fiussian? It would be a 
very useful thing for you to know here in Siberia.' 

' I should like to learn very much indeed. But 
who is to teach me ? ' 

<Why, I should think there were men enough 
here who can read and write. Would you like me 
to teach you?' 

• I ..-» 


* Oh, please do.' And he rose eagerly from his 
pallet, and folded his hands pleadingly. 

We began our lessons the next night. I had a 
Russian translation of the New Testament — the only 
book which is not prohibited in a convict prison. 
In a few weeks Alei had learned to read fluently, 
and in three months he had completely mastered 
his book. He was passionately fond of reading. 
One day, when we were reading the Sermon on the 
Mount together, I noticed that he pronounced cer- 
tain passages with a peculiar emphasis, and asked 
him if he liked what we had just been reading. He 
looked up and blushed crimson. * Oh yes,' said he, 
' oh yes. Issa is a holy propliet. Issa speaks the 
words of God. How beautiful this is ! ' 

* Tell me what place you like best ? ' 

' This one, where he says " Forgive, love, do not 
offend anyone, love your enemies." How beautifully 
he speaks.' 

He turned to his brothers, who were listening to 
our conversation, and began to tell them something 
eagerly. They talked long and gravely together, 
nodding their heads as if in approval of what was 
said. Then they turned to me, with the quiet dig- 
nified smile I liked so well, and informed me that 
Issa was a prophet of God and had done great 
miracles, that he had formed a bird of clay, breathed 
on it, and that it had flown away — ^all which 
was written in their sacred books. I suppose they 
thought that they were giving me great pleasure by 
praising * Issa,' and poor Alei was overjoyed that his 
brothers should have been so kind to me. 



I then taught him to write. He got paper, pens, 
and ink (he would not hear of my buying it), and 
learnt to write beautifully in two months or so. 
His brothers' pride and joy knew no bounds, and 
they tried to express their gratitude to me by help- 
ing me when and where they could. Alei loved me 
as dearlv as if I had been his brother. I shall never 
forget our parting when he left the prison. He had 
a>ked me to go with him to a secluded spot behind 
the barrack>, ainl there he fell on my neck and wept. 
He had never ki^^ed me l^fore, and I had never seen 
him cry. 

• You have done so much for me,' said he, 
weeping; 'more than my father and mother ever 
did : you made a man of me, and God will reward 
you, and I shall never forget you.' 

I often wonder w^here he is now, my own sweet 
lad. my Alei ! 

There were also six Poles in our prison, all, or 
neiurly all, of them highly educated and refined 
gentlemen, who kept close together and plainly 
showed their aversion to the other convicts, for 
which behaviour the latter hated and detested them 
with all their might and main. They were all mor- 
bidly sensitive and irritable, and I shall have occa- 
sion to mention them repeatedly hereafter. These 
Poles sometimes lent me books to read during the 
latter period of my imprisonment. I shall never 
forget the strange impression which the first hook I 
read after so many years produced on me. This is 
a subject I shall dwell on more particularly hereafter, 
as it is full of interest to me, though I fear that few 



will be able to enter fully into my feelings. All I 
am going to say on that subject now is that mental 
privjitions are much harder to bear than bodily ones. 
The peasant who is sentenced to penal servitude 
loses, it is true, his home, his family — in short, 
everything tliat is dear to him — but still he remains 
in his own sphere and goes to live among his own 
class of people ; while the educated man who is con- 
demned to the same punishment as the pciisant loses 
not only all that the latter has lost, but frequently 
much more. He must at once give up all those 
habits and customs, all those intellectual resources, 
which to him form part of his life, and let his mind 
die the slow death of starvation for want of proper 
food. He is like a fish out of water, which lies 
gasping on the sand. And thus the punishment 
which according to the law is the same for both 
criminals is ten times more hard for him to bear 
than for the other. 

The only human being in our cell who found 
favour in the eyes of the Poles was a Jew, perhaps be- 
cause he amused them. He was at once the favourite 
and the laughing-stock of the prison, and the only 
Jew in the place. I cannot now think of him with- 
out laughing — he was so like a plucked chicken. 
Issai Fomitch, for that was his name, was about fifty 
years old, and rather under middle size — a puny, 
weak, miserable-looking creature. His face, was all 
puckered, and his cheeks and brows marked with the 
hoi iron. I have seldom seen such a mixture oC 
shrewdness and simplicity, cowardice and impudence, 
all combined in one person. ^Vhen I looked at 



his puny body I could hardly believe that he had 
ever borne sixty lushes without succumbing on the 
spot. He had come to us for murder, and was look- 
ing forward impatiently to the end of his twelve 
years' term of imprisonment that he might be sent 
to a convict colony to settle there and marry ; for 
this curious being had a very decided leaning towards 
holy matrimony. One thing was a great drawback 
to him in his prospects — the marks on his face. He 
confided to me with great solemnity that he had a 
prescription hidden away carefully for a miraculous 
salve which was to take away those ugly marks. He 
did not dare use it while he was in the prison, not- 
withstanding his anxious wish to get rid of his dis- 
figurement. We were great friends. He was always 
in good humour, and no wonder, for he led a com- 
paratively easy life in the prison, being exempt from 
hard labour owing to his being a jeweller by profes- 
sion, and having almost more orders for jewellery 
given him than he could take, as there was no other 
jeweller in the place. He also combined the profit- 
able occupations of usurer and pawnbroker, and half 
the prison was constantly in his debt. He had ar- 
rived at the prison before me, and one of the Poles 
described to me his entrance into the prison, which 
I shall relate later on. 

The other prisoners in our cell were four Ras- 
koPniks;' two or three Little Russians — sullen, un- 
pleasant fellows ; a youth of twenty-three, with a small 
face and sharp thin nose, who had murdered eight 
people ; several false-coiners, one of whom was the 

> A religious secL 


buffoon of our cell, and a number of gloomy-looking 
men, with shaven heads and terribly disfigured faces, 
who hardly ever deigned to speak to any one, and 
scowled at everybody with undisguised hatred. All 
these figures seemed to pass before my eyes like 
phantoms in a dream on that first terrible evening of 
my new life, which was spent amidst foul-mouthed 
abuse and filthy language, the.^anking of chains, 
cynical laughter, in a naepfittii atmosphere. I 
stretched myself out on the bare boards, put my 
clothes undor my head (for I had no pillow), and 
covering myself with my short fur coat, tried, but 
in vain, to forget myself and my new surroundings 
in sleep. 

' ' f 





Three days after my arrival in tbe prison I wa^ 
ordered to go out and work, togetber with the other 
convicts. How well I remember that day — my first 
day of hard labour — and every little incident that 
occurred I Going out to work with the other pri- 
soners was quite a new experience to me altogether, 
and I ^tilI felt a kind of morbid interest in the 
novelty of my situation. I had suffered intensely 
during those last three days. I was broken down, 
my life shattered and crushed, and yet I seemed to 
find a kind of cruel pleasure in repeating to 
myself: ' I have reached at last the end of my 
journey — I am a convict ! And this wretched place, 
which fills me with sad and dismal forebodings, is 
to be henceforth my home ! Home ! And yet, who 
knows ? Perhaps when I come to leave it after many 
years I may even feel sorry to go away!' The 
thought that I might feel sorry to leave this place 
filled me with horror, and then I, for the first time 
in my life, began to realise the full truth of the say- 
ing which I had often heard repeated and never 
fully believed, that man is a being who can accustom 

f ..-' 


himself to every tiling and anything. But my future 
was still very dark, and my present surroundings 
seemed hardly calculated to make me look forward to 
it with hopeful trust. The undisguised curiosity witlx 
which my new comrades watched every one of my 
movements, the coarse rough manner in which they 
treated the gentleman who had suddenly been thrown 
into their midst, had nearly driven me wild; and I 
ardently longed for work that I might begin to live as 
they all lived, become as one of tliem, and drink my 
Clip of bitterness to tlie very dregs. In those days I 
neither saw nor heard many things which took place 
before ray eyes, and which it would have been better 
for me to have seen and heard, as they would have 
soothed and calmed my wounded feelings, and taught 
me to look for the sweet kernel beneath the rou^rh 
bitter husk. Two or three kind faces which shone 
out among the many sombre countenances which sur- 
rounded me had cheered and encouraged me greatly. 
Nobody could be kinder and more considerate in his 
behaviour than poor Akim Akimytch. 'There are 
everywhere bad and good people,' said I to myself, 
' and who knows ? — perhaps the people here are not 
even as bad, at least some of them, as many who 
are not in prison,' I could not help smiling at my 
own folly that I should try and make myself believe 
that there could be good people in a convict 
prison. I little suspected then that I was right in 
my surmise. 

Among others there was one prisoner whose 
character I did not leam to appreciate till many 
years after, and yet we were together almost all the 


Dl'RUil) ALIVE. 

time of my captivity. This was the convict Soushi- 
loflf, who waited upon me. I had also another servant, 
the convict 0?.-ip, whom Akim Akimytch had strongly 
recommended to me to engage as cook almost the 
very first day of my arrival, saying that he would 
cook my dinner for me for thirty copecks a month if 
I did not like the prison diet and could afford to find 
my own dinners. Ossip was one of the four cooks 
who had been appointed by the convicts for the two 
kitchens. They were not obliged to accept the 
situation unless they liked it, and might throw it up 
any time they cliose. They were exempt from hard 
labour, and their duties consisted in baking the 
bread and preparing the shtshi, and keeping the 
kitchens clean. Our cooks went by the name of 
• kitchenmaids.' This was by no means a term of 
derision, as the cooks were always elected among 
the better class of criminals, but rather a term of 
affection, a pet name for those useful members of 
society. Ossip had been re-elected several times and 
been • kitchenmaid ' for many years, though he occa- 
sionally left his situation for a time when the temp- 
tation to smuggle liquor became too strong for him. 
He was a smuggler by profession, and, oddly enough, 
a remarkably steady and honest fellow, of a meek, 
gentle disposition, who never had had a quarrel with 
any of his fellow -prisoners. All the cooks, including 
Ossip, sold liquor, and, if he had only been less afraid 
of being flogged and more venturesome, Ossip, with 
his passion for smuggling, might in time have made as 
much money as Gasin. We were always great friends, 
Ossip and I. As from my speaking about finding 

iny own dinners the reader might possibly be led to 
suppose that I had a nice little repast prepared for 
ma every day, I liaston to dispel any such illusion by 
assuring liim that I hardly ever spent more than a 
rouble a month on my food. ]My dinner consisted for 
many years of one pound of meat which Ossip roasted 
for me every day, and badly enough too. I alwaya ate 
the prison bread, and if I was exceptionally hungry 
I would try and overcome my repugnance to the 
shtshi and oat some. After a wliile I even began 

^ to relisli them in spite of the black-beetles. Meatw^as 

cheap enougli in Siberia — in winter time it cost only 

' one grosh a pound. Our provisions were bought for 

us in tlie town by tlie invalided soldiers who lived in 
our cells to maintain order. As these worthies were 
ratlier afraid of the convicts, and wished to spend 
their last days on earth in peace and quiet, they had 
volunteered their services in going daily to market 
for us without expecting even the slightest remune- 
ration, and thereby conciliated the good graces of 
the convicts. They bought brick-tea,^ tobacco, meat, 
kalatchi — in short, everything except liquor, which 
the prisoners smuggled in themselves, and occa- 
sionally treated their invalided friends to a glassful, 
wliich was always thankfully accepted. 

For many years Ossip and I never exchanged a 
word together. I made several attempts to draw 
him into a conversation, but he seemed utterly in- 
capable of sustaining his part in it, and confined 

* The worst kind of tea. It is mixed with sheep's blood and 
.1 ..^ pressed in the shape of bricks. 



];ui:ii:i) aj.ivk. 

]iim?elf to smiling or answering * yes ' or ' no ' to all 
my remark? or questions. 

yiy other lielp was .SoiishilofT, who found me out 
and attached liimself to me without the least en- 
couragement on my part. I cannot even remember 
now when he first joined himself to my staff. He 
took it upon himself to wash my clothes. There was 
no wa.-rh-house in the prison, and all the washing had 
to be done in small wooden troughs over a large 
ct*s>p^H»l which wa? situated Ixjhind the barracks. 
Besides bein:^ mv washerwoman, Soushiloff had a 
knack of making himself generally useful ; he would 
make my tea, run errands for me, find out things 
that I wanted to know, take mv jacket to tlie tailor 
to be mended, and bbick my l)Oots about four times 
a And all these various jobs were performed 
in such a grave l)U5incss-like way, as if licaven only 
knows what responsibility rested on his shoulders. 
In short, he had completely fused our two destinies 
into one, and taken all my private concerns upon 
himself. Thus, e.g., he would never say, ' You liave 
so many clean shirts,' or ' Your jacket is torn ' ; but 
always, ' We have so many clean shirts,' ' Our jacket 
is torn 'I His whole life was devoted to my service. 
He knew no handicraft, and I suppose that all the 
money he ever possessed were the few groshes that I 
gave him occasionally. I really do not think that he 
could have been happy unless he had attached him- 
self to some one, and he probably preferred me to 
other people because I was more civilised and paid 
him better than the rest. SoushiloflF belonged to 
that class of people who never could make money, 


^ ' • .f ..-^ 


or at least keep it in tlieir pockets when they had 
some. There were many such in the prison, and I 
liave spoken of tliem l>eforo. The most prominent 
trait in their character was a strong tendency, or 
rather an intense desire, to keep in the background 
as much as possible whenever there might be any 
occasion for them to come forward. They cannot 
help it — it is their nature to be so. 

Soushiloff was one of the most abject, wretched- 
looking mortals it has ever l)con my lot to meet. 
He always looked as if everyl)ody's hand were against 
him, though to my knowledge nobody ever hurt him 
in tlio prison. I always felt sorry for him, though 
it would have been difficult to assign any reason for 
my sympathy. I had tried in vain to draw him into 
conversation ; he never knew what to say, and seemed 
po painfully conscious of this defect that the only 
way to cheer him up after such unlucky attempts 
at conversation was to ask him to do something for / 

He was of middle stature, neither plain nor 
handsome, neither old nor young, neither clever nor 
stupid, fair-haired and slightly marked with small- 
pox. The convicts often joked him for having 
* exchanged himself,' as they called it, on his way to 
Siberia for a silver rouble and a red shirt. To *exchansre 
oneself means in prison slang to exchange names 
and consequently sentences with some one else. How- 
ever incredible this may seem it is true, nevertheless, 
and the custom existed in full vigour during my 
time in Siberia ; it was sanctified by old traditions^ 
and the transactions were conducted according to 

u 2 



certain forms. I should never have l)elieved such 
.•: thing to be possible if a similar instance to the 
one I am going to relate had not taken place before 
my own eyes. An * exchange ' takes place in tlie 
following manner. A large party of convicts are on 
their way to Siberia — some are going to the mines, 
others to a convict prison, and the rest to a convict 
colony. On the road one of them — e.g. a certain 
Mikhailoflf — expre^^ses a desire to ' exchange ' himself. 
He is sentenced to penal servitude for so many 
vears, and does not in the least care about going 
to a convict prison. So he casts his eyes alx)ut, 
:»ud finally discovers some poor wretch whose pun- 
ishmouC is less severe tlian his own ; he may be 
going to the mines for a short time, or to a settlc- 
niont, or have been sentenced to penal servitude for 
a few years. We will call this poor wretch Soushi- 
l»fT. He has been born a serf, and is sent to the 
colonies perhaps for some trifling offence, through 
some caprice of liis master, etc. Soushiloff is 
hungry and cold and tired; he has walked 1,500 
versts without a copeck in his pocket, living on the 
coarse food provided by the Government, and not 
being able to afford himself even a cup of tea. His 
convict garb is barely sufficient to protect him from 
the inclemencies of the weather. Mikhailoff makes 
up TO Sousbiloff ; they become friends, and one fine 
day. on arriving at the next stage, where they are to 
rest a day or two, he treats him to as much liquor as 
the other can drink. Finally he proposes to him to 
exchange names. ^ You see my name is Mikhailoff. 
I am not going to a common prison like the rest of 



you, but to the " Special Department," and being 
" )Special " it must naturally be better than one of 
your common prisons.' 

The fact is that few people knew anything about 
this so-called * Special Department.' It existed some- 
where in an out-of-the-way comer of Siberia, and so 
few convicts had been sent to it — not more than seventy 
in my time — that its whereabouts was by no means 
easy to discover. I have frequently met people who 
were well acquainted with Siberia, and had lived and 
served there for years without having heard any- 
thing about the ' Special Department ' till I told them 
about it. It is mentioned in the Penal Code in the 
following terms : — * A Special Department will be 

established in the convict prison at for the most 

important criminals, imtil the necessary steps have 
been taken towards settling the duration of their 

r term of exile.' The convicts who were in that de- 

partment did not know whether they were sentenced 
for lifetime or only for a term. It is, therefore, not to 
be wondered at that neither SoushflofF nor any of his 

* party knew anything about this place, perhaps with 

the exception of Mikhailoff, who had reasons of his 

I own for suspecting what it might possibly be. Soushi- 

loflf was exiled to one of the convict settlements. 

Was there ever a more fortimate coincidence for 

Mikhailoff ? * Would you like to exchange names ? ' 

Poor Soushiloff is drunk ; his simple soul is filled 

with gratitude towards Mikhailoff who has been so 

kind to him : he cannot find it in his heart to say ^ no.' 
t •' - ■ ■ - 
f ' • .^ Besides, he has heard the other convicts talk among 

themselves about exchanging names, and knows that 




it is frequently done. They agree. Mikbailoff takes 
advantage of SoushilofTs childlike simplicity, and 
huvs his name from him for a silver rouble and a 
red shirt, both objects being haudc^d over to him on 
the spot in the presence of witnesses. The next 
morning SoushiloflF has sufficiently recovered his 
senses to realise that he has pledged himself rashly ; 
but Mikbailoff stands treat again, and when he re- 
fuses to let his victim have any more liquor, why, 
there is the rouble to fall back upon, and the red 
shirt follows the rouble. He. has got into a scrape 
now and cannot j^et out of it ajjain. lie must eitlier 
give back the money or keep the false name ; and 
where is Soushilofif to get a whole rouble from ? In 
vain he aska for mercy. The affair comes before 
the artel, and he is plainly told that he must either 
keep his promise or else the artel will force him to 
give back the rouble. It stands to reason that if the 
artel were to excuse one of its memlx^rs from keep- 
ing his promise the wliole system of exchanging 
names would fall to the ground. The poor fellow 
knows that if he persists in making a fuss about the 
matter and in refusing to keep his promise he will 
be severely l^eaten, nay, perhaps killed, and with 
a heavy heart he accepts his destiny. The exchange 
of names is made known to the rest of the party. 
Mikbailoff stands treat once more, and the others 
don't care where ilikhailoff or Soushiloff go to finally, 
especially after the former has treated them so hand- 
somely. At the next stage the roll is called. ' Mik- 
hafloff,' shouts the ofi&cer on duty. * Present,' 
replies Soushiloff, and vice versa. In Tobolsk the 

•*i .-. . %. 

♦ f 


convicts separate to go to their respective places of 
destination. JMikhailoff walks off to the settlements, 
and Soushiloff is sent to the ' Special Department ' 
with a douLle escort. The matter can't be helped 
now, for the poor fellow has no means of proving his 
identit3\ Nobody knows where the witnesses are 
now, and even if they could be found they would be 
sure to swear that Soushiloff is i\Iikhailoff. And this 
is the way in which Soushiloff got into the * Special 
Department ' for a rouble and a red shirt, and was 
laughed at into the bargain by the convicts for 
having exchanged names for such a trifling sum. 
Generally the convict who gives his name to another 
and takes his instead demands a high price, not 
unfrequently thirty or fifty roubles. 

We had been living together for some years, 
Soushiloff and I, and he had really become very 
much attached to me, and I rather liked him. One 
day — I shall always blame myself for my cruelty — he 
had neglected to do something I had asked him to 
do for me. I felt very much vexed about it. As it 
happened, I had just paid him for his services, and 
said sharply : * There, Soushiloff, you are ready 
enough to take my money, yet you don't take any 
pains to do what I tell you.' Soushiloff did not 
answer me back, but ran off immediately to see 
about the matter. A few days passed; Soushiloff 
seemed very much out of sorts and cast down about 
something. It never once crossed my mind that my 
careless words might have caused his grief; but 
knowing that another convict, Anton Vassilyeff, was 
worrying him about a trifling debt, I supposed that 



he was unable to pay him just now, and did not like 
to ask me for more money, and that this pecuniary 
diflScultv was the cause of his sadness. On the third 
day, as I was sitting on my prdlet and SoushilofF 
standing before me, I said to him, *Soushfloff, I 
think you ought to pay Anton VassilyefF. Here is 
some money for you ; pay him, and have the matter 
settled once for all/ He seemed much astonished at 
my offering him the money, especially as he had rea- 
son to tl]iijk that lie had been sufficiently paid for 
his services, and could hardly expect me to give him 
anvthinj; for some time to come. He looked first «it 
the monev, then id me, and then rushed out of the 
room. I followed him, and found him leaning against 
the fence behind the prison, his face pressed against 
the planks. MVhat is the matter, SoushilofF?' I 
asked. He did not hook at me, but I saw, to my 
great astonishment, that tears stood in his eyes. 
*You think, Alexander Petrovitch,' stammered he, 
trvins: not to look at me, Hhat I — for the love of 
money — while I — I — I ' Here he turned again to 
the fence with such vehemence that he hit his head 
against it, end sobbed aloud. That was the first time 
I had ever seen a man weep in the convict prison. 
It cost me not a little trouble to soothe him, and 
although henceforth he served me even with greater 
zeal, if possible, than before, I knew from almost im- 
perceptible signs that in his heart he had never for- 
given me my cruel reproach. Yet he never seemed 
hurt or offended when the other prisoners abused or 
laughed at him. 

>Iy meeting with another convict, called A , 

>?? •' •V*,^.- 



who had arrived at the prison a short time Ijefore me, 
rendered almost unbearably hard and bitter the first 
days that I spent in the penal establisliment. I was 
prepared to meet him there. He was a striking 
example of the depth of degradation and depravity 
into which a human being can sink after he has once 
stifled every feeling of shame and remorse in his 

heart. A was the young man of gentle birth 

whom I have frequently mentioned before as our dela- 

i tor, who reported to the Major whatsoever happened 

in the prison, and was an intimate friend of his ser- 
vant Fed'ka. His story is easily told. He left school 
when still very young, quarrelled with his relations 
in INIoscow, who were shocked at the life he led and 
tried to rescue him while it was yet time, and came 
to St. Petersburg, where he continued his evil courses. 

. Finding himself short of money he joined in an infer- 

nal conspiracy against some innocent people, accusing 
them falsely of high treason, and hoping thereby to 
obtain a great reward. The plot was discovered, the 

^ conspirators arrested, he among the rest, and he was 

exiled to Siberia for ten years. As I have said be- 
fore, he was still a young man in the prime of life, 
and it might have been expected that such a terrible 
change in his life would have opened his eyes, and 
perhaps altered him altogether. But this strange 
man accepted his new destiny with the gi*eatest in- 
difiference ; all he complained of was that he had to 
work, and all he regretted were the haunts of vice 

k - , and the pastrycooks' shops which he had friequented 

in St. Petersburg. He used to say that when a 
man was once a convict he ought to be as bad as he 




possibly could be, and tliat it was ridiculous to try 
and become >x:tter. I speak of him as a phenomenon 
of perversity. I have spent many years among mur- 
derers and criminals of the worst possible class, but 
never did I meet with such terrible moral depravity 

and shameless vice as in A . How I hated his 

cynical, sardonic smile I Yet he was shrewd, and 
even clever, goo<l-looking, and not without education. 

The convicts were all on good terms with A , 

although they knew that he was constantly in the 
habit of reporting to the Major what they said or 
did. His having found favour in the eyes of the 
drunken Major greatly raised him in their eyes. 

Among many other lies which he had told his 
protector, he liad assured him that he could paint 
portraits, and the worthy officer immediately insisted 
on being painted by him in his own house. Here he 
became intimate with Fed'ka, who ruled over his 
master, and consequently over the prison and the 
convicts. A used to amuse the Major by re- 
peating the gossip of the prison to him, and the 
latter would frequently, when drunk, box his in- 
former^s ears and kick his shins, calling him a cursed 
dog, and many similar sweet names, and then sit 
down and order him to go on with his picture. In 

his eyes, A , though a great painter as he thought, 

was nothing but a comdct prisoner, whom he might 

treat as he chose. A went on painting the 

Majors portrait for a whole year without ever finish- 
ing it, when at last his sitter lost all patience, and 
having come to the conclusion that the portrait, in- 
stead of becoming like him, became more like any- 




body else, he flew into a great rage, gave the artist 
a sound thrashing, and sent him back to his hard 

labour in the prison. A mourned deeply over 

the change, and frequently sighed for the flesh-pots 
in the Major's kitchen, and the pleasant days he used 
to spend there in company with his bosom friend, 

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. 
We were not long in testing the truth of this 

proverb. A 's disgrace put an end to the sufier- 

ings of M , another convict whom the Major had 

most cruelly persecuted for the last year, because 
A-- — hated him, and never missed an opportunity 

to set the Major against him. When A came 

to the prison, M was there all by himself, suf- 
fering terribly from his loneliness. He had separated 
himself from the other convicts, who inspired him 
with loathing, and was hated by them. Grenerally 

speaking, the position of people like M is almost 

unbearable in convict prisons. M did not know 

anything about A 's previous history, while the 

latter took in the situation at a glance, and at once 

assured M that he had been exiled for some 

political crime like himself. Poor M was de- 
lighted to find a friend, a fellow-suffeier of his own 
class. He tended him carefully, comforted him dur- 
ing the first days, thinking that he too must be suf- 
fering terribly, gave him all the money he. had, fed 
and clothed him — in a word, shared everythiqg with 

him. A — r- soon took to hating M , because 

the latter was a noble, generous-minded man and 
unlike himself; and took good care to repeat to the 




Major what M had told him about their tyrant 

(as he called him) in their conversations. The result 

was that the Major took a violent dislike to M , 

and if the Commandant had not interfered occasion- 
ally, poor M would have had a hard time of it 

in the prison. Of course M soon learned to 

whom he was indebted for all this fresh trouble. It 

gave A great pleasure to meet him, and he never 

failed to look at him with that infernal smile of his. 
Later on, this wretched being ran away with another 
convict and their escort, but I shall have to say more 
of that hereafter. He made up to me at first, 
thinking that I did not know his story, but soon left 
me in peace. 

During the first three days I dragged myself 
wearily from place to place or lay on my pallet. 
Akim Akimytch had recommended to me a trust* 
worthy convict, who made my shirts for me for a 
trifling remuneration (the material was provided by 
the Government). I also followed my kind counsel- 
lor's advice, and got myself a little mattress, which 
could be folded up and stowed away during the day- 
time — it was made of thick felt, and covered with 
canvas, and no thicker than a pancake — ^and a pillow 
stuffed with wool, which seemed terribly hard at first 
till I got accustomed to it. Akim Akimytch took a 
great interest in getting all these various articles for 
me, and even made me with his own hands a blanket 
which ecmsisted entirely of small pieces of old jackets 
and tiousers which I had bought from the other con- 
victs. The clothes were also provided by the Govem- 
moit, and expected to last a certain time — jackets 



and trousers one year, and fur coats three years. At 
the expiration of this term, the suit becomes the 
property of the convict, who immediately sells it to 
the highest bidder in the prison. Even the most 
ragged suit of clothes, which a beggar would be 
ashamed to wear, is sure to find a purchaser. 



■ & 






I WAS not altogether without money when I ar- 
rived at the prison. I did not carry a large sum 
about me for fear of its being stolen, but I had a 
few rouble-notes hidden in the lining of the cover of 
my New Testament. Both the book and the money 
had been given me in Tobdlsk by fellow-sufiferers 
who were dragging out a weary life far from their 
home and those that had been dear to their hearts. 
There are, and ever will be in Siberia, persons who 
have devoted their whole life to doing good to convict 
prisoners. They care for them as they would for 
their own children, and try to lighten their burden 
in every possible way. I cannot help mentioning 
here one instance of the kind which has come under 
my own personal notice. 

In the town where our prison was there lived a 
widowed lady, called Nasst^ssya Ivanovna, whose 
whole life had been devoted to succouring and help- 
ing the exiles. We did not know her personally 
while we were convict prisoners, but she seemed to 
have taken a special fancy to us without even knowing 
us ; and many were the kind messages this good soul 




contrived to send us. I sometimes \7ondered if 
perhaps a member of her own family, or some other 
person who may liave lx»en dear to her, had suffered 
in a similar way, and whether it was for the sake of 
him that she was so good and kind to us. After 
leaving the prison, on the eve of my departure for 
another town, I called on her to express my gratitude 
for all her kindness. She was living somewhere on 
the outskirts of the town in the house of a near 
relative. If I were asked to describe Nasstassya 
Ivanovna — to say if she were young or old, plain or 
handsome, clever or stupid — I am afraid that I could 
not do it, for she belonged to that class of persons of 
whom it is as difficult to say what they are as what 
they are not. But there was about her an atmosphere 
of love and peace which soothed us and did us good 
after the long years we had spent in a place and 
among people where love and peace were almost 
unknown words. She hardly ever took her eyes from 
us, laughed when we laughed, took the greatest 
interest in all we said, and bustled about to get us 
the best her house could offer, for she was poor. 
Tea was presently brought in, and quite a substantial 
meal provided. When we rose to take leave — ^a 
former fellow-prisoner had accompanied me in my 
visit — ^she disappeared for a moment, and reat>peared 
with two cigar-cases in her hand. She had made 
them herself of cardboard, poor soul (and very badly 
too), and covered them with coloured paper not 
unlike that which is generally used for the binding 
of arithmetic books in 'village schools-^for aught 
I know she may have used an old arithmeitic book 



for the purpose. Both cases were ornamented with 
a thin border of gilt paper which she had perhaps 
bought on purpose. 

^ I know that you smoke cigarettes, and I thought 
that perhaps you might be able to make use of this 
trifle/ said she timidly, as if she were presuming too 
much in making us a present. I have often heard it 
said, and read too, that the highest love for our neigh- 
bour is in reality nothing but egotism, yet I fail to 
see wherein ^otism showed itself in this instince. 

Although I had brought only a small sum of 
money with me, I could not find it in my heart to 
refuse the convicts who, in the course of the first day, 
came repeatedly to borrow small sums of money 
from me. Still I felt vexed with myself for allowing 
them to cheat me in the most barefaced manner, as 
I thought then, and still more for having made 
myself the laughing-stock of the whole prison when 
it was most important that I should at once take my 
position in the place. I suddenly found myself in 
a totally new sphere, among strange people who did 
not know me and whom I did not know, with whom 
I had nothing in common and never could have. 
What were our relations to be ? Would I ever meet 
with a congenial spirit among them ? Could I hope 
to find a friend? 

With such and similar thoughts haunting my 
brain day and night, it is not to be wondered at that 
I began to fed inexpressibly sad and dejected. In 
vain did I txy to rouse myself and shake off my 
sadness by farcing myself to attend to the numerous 
little hoiusebold arrangements which it was necessary 



to make in order to make life less hard in the prison, 
and in which Akim Akimytch had volunteered to 
lielp me. * I am buried alive,' I used sometimes to 
say to myself, standing on the steps of our prison 
in the dusk of the early evening, and watching the 
convicts who had come home from their work and 
were loitering about in the courtyard or hanging 
idly about the kitchens. As I watched them wist- 
fully I tried to read their characters and individual 
dispositions in their features and movements. Some 
looked cross and sullen, while others were merrily 
laughing and cracking jokes with their neighboiurs. 
These two types, the serious and the merry ones, are 
most commonly met wi^h in the convict prisons. 
Some quarrelled, and others talked quietly with 
each other ; some walked up and down apart from 
the rest, looking thoughtful or tired and apathetic, 
while others swaggered about with their caps jauntily 
set on one side and their fur coats thrown loosely over 
their shoulders. *So this is to be my world hence- 
forth,' thought I, * in which I must live for many 
years to come.' I tried at first to get Akim Akimytch 
to tell me all about the convicts — ^their dispositions, 
temperaments, etc., at our afternoon tea-parties. 
During the first weeks of my life in the prison I 
lived almost entirely on tea, and frequently invited 
Akim Akimytch to share the contents of my teapot. 
He never refused my invitations, and invariably took 
it upon himself to boil the water in our own funny 
little tin samovar, which had been manufactured in 

the prison and lent me by M -. When I had 

poured him out his glass of tea (Akim Akimytch was 



the fortuoate possessor of a couple of glasses), be 
always sipped it in deep silence and with great pro- 
priety ; then set the tumbler down and immediately 
began to stitch away with great vigour at my coun- 
terpane. But he could not tell me what I want(!d 
to know, nor could he at all understand why I should 
take such an interest in the convicts, and listened to 
my questions with a curious smile which I well 
remember. ^ I see it is of no use asking questions,' 
thought I, *and I suppose I had better try and find 
out for myself what I want to know/ 

Early on the fourth morning after my arrival in 
the prison the convicts were as usual drawn up in 
two rows in the little square in front of the guard- 
room by the gates. Both facing them and behind 
them stood soldiers with loaded guns. A soldier is 
authorised to fire at a convict if the latter attempts 
to escape or in a case of open mutiny, but is at the 
same time responsible for his shot. The head 
ensdneer arrived with his staff and the soldiers who 
superintended our work. The roll was called ; the 
convict prisoneri? who worked in the tailor's workshop 
were sent away first, then the workmen 'par eoocellence 
dispersed about the difierent workshops, and the rest 
were sent to do various little jobs. Twenty men, 
myself included, were sent down to the river which 
flowed behind the fortress to break up two old barges 
which bdonged to the Government and were frozen 
in, that the wood might not be wasted. As the 
coimtiy was richly wooded^ and fuel was sold at a 
nominal price, a few pieces more or less of rotten 
timber could hardly make much, difference in the 

^vt'.- ; 

>-i«^ /.•,." 


economical arrangements of the prison, and the 
whole job seemed to be merely a pretext to keep us 
busy. This the men knew, and went about their 
work in a listless way, very diflferent from the eager- 
ness with which they worked at a job that offered 
more interest, especially if it was to be finished by 
a certain time. In such cases they seemed to grow 
quite excited over their task, and often would exert 
themselves to their utmost to finish it in a shorter 
time than had been allotted to them, not for the 

f sake of the profit, for profit there was none for them, 

but because their self-love was touched. 

It was a mild, foggy winter day ; the air was so 
warm that the snow had begun to melt in some places. 
Our chains rattled and jingled as we went down by 
the banks of the river. Two or three men went to fetch 
the necessary tools, and I walked on with the others, 

^ feeling less low-spirited than I had felt for some time 

past, and wondering what hard labour was like and 
how I was going to do it for the first time in my life. 
I remember every little incident that happened on 

I this morning, which was my first day of hard labour. 

On the road we met a tradesman with a long beard, 
who stopped and put his hand in his pocket. A 
convict detached himself from us, and taking off 
his cap ran up to him, gratefully received the charit- 
able contribution, five copecks, and came back to 
us. The man crossed himself and went on his way. 
The five copecks were spent in kalatchi which the 
convicts bought and divided among themselves. . 

^'•^ Vf '..^"^ Some of my comrades walked along in silcncd, 

looking surly and unhappy^ others seemed indifferent 

1 2 "^ 



to what was going on, and a few chatted among 
themselves. One convict was in very high spirits, 
singing and dancing and jingling his chains at every 
jump. His name was Skourdtoff, and he was the 
same man who on the first morning after my arrival 
in the prison had quarrelled with another for daring 
to assert that he, the other one, was a gaol-bird. 
Finally he struck up a ditty the first lines of which 
ran thus, 

They mArried me whilo I wns uwaj, 
Wlien I had gone to the mil!. 

*Therenow,whatis he howling about?' reproach- 
fully remarked one convict, who, by the way, had no 
business to make any remarks whatever. 

* The wolf knows but one song, and the people of 
Toula have learnt it from him,' remarked another, 
with a strong Little-Russian accent. 

* There's no harm in coming from Toula,' retorted 
Skour^toff, * but I have been told that you were nearly 
choked with dumplings in Poltava.' 

* That's a ciursed lie. Didn't you eat your shtshi 
with a wooden shoe, you son of a dog? ' 

*■ And now he looks as if the devil himself were 
feeding him with cannon-balls,' added a third. 

*My dear brothers, I have bec;n brought up very 
delicately in my youth,' answered Skour&tofT, with 
a slight sigh, as if his bringing-up were rather a 
grievance to him, and addressing the whole party. 
' Ever since I was a baby I have been fed on prunes 
and Prussian rdls; my brothers have a shop in 
Moscow, in Passingby Street, and sell wind. They 
are the richest merchants I know.' 




* And what have you been trading with?* 

' Oh, various things. I had two hundred given 
me about that time.' 

* Roubles?' interrupted an inquisitive listener, 
catching his breath at the mere thought of so much 

* No, dear friend, they were lashes, not roubles.' 

* Louka, hallo there — Louka, I say.' 

' Others may call me Louka if they please, but I 
shall be much obliged to you if you will call me 
Louka Kousmitch,' retorted rather sharply a thin con- 
vict with a peaked nose. 

*Very well, Louka Kousmftch, if you like it 
better, and go to the devil 1 ' 

' I'm not Louka Kousmftch for you. If you want 
to speak to me, you must call me grandfather.' , 

' Oh, go to the devil with your titles and grand- 
fathers. I shan't waste any more words on you. I 
wanted to tell you something that would have amused 
you, though, but you put it clean out of my head. 
You see, brethren, it so happened that I did not stay 
long in Moscow. I had fifteen lashes with the knout 
given me, and was sent here. And then ^ 

* But what did they send you here for ? ' inter- 
rupted another, who had been listening attentively. 

* You see, brethren, if you want to get rich in a 
short time you had better not drink and gamble. 
But I did so want to be a rich man, and you see to 
what it has brought me I ' 

This was said in such a comically plaintive tpne 
that some of the men began to laugh. Skour&toff 
evidently belonged to that class of good-humoured 



fellows who seem to consider it their duty to amuse 
their gloomy fellow-men, and get nothing but abuse 
ibr their pains. 

* You had better take care of yourself, and not 
go too near a wood, for you might be mistaken for a 
sable and killed some day,' observed Louka Kous- 
mitch ironically. I suppose your coat alone cost as 
much as a hundred roubles.' 

Skourdtoff was attired in a wretched old fur coat 
which was covered with patches of all sizes and 
colours. He examined it attentively, but without 
displaying great emotion. 

^ If my coat is shabby, my head is very precious, 
brothers,* replied he. * When I left Moscow I felt 
so grateful to know that my poor little head was 
going with me. Farewell, Moscow, many thanks 
for the hot bath you gave me, and the stripes on my 
back. You have no business to be looking at my 
coat, dear fidend.' 

< Would you like me to look at your head in- 

^Tain't his own head,' remarked Louka Kous- 
mitch again. * He asked for a head as he marched 
through Tyumen with his party, and some one gave 
him this one for Christ's sake.' ' 

' Did you ever learn a trade, Skouratofl'? ' 

^ Oh, to be sure he did,' remarked a surly-looking 
fellow in a gruff voice. ' He knows how to catch 
greenhorns and pick their pockets, depend upon 

* Le. as he would give to a beggar. Russian beggars always 
ad: for alms for ' Christ's sake.' 




^ I did try to make a pair of boots once,' replied 
Skourdtoff, without noticing the bitter remark. 

* Did any one buy them ? ' 

* Oh, yes ; there was one man who did not fear 
God and honour liis parents. So the Lord punished 
him by sending him to buy the boots that I had 

An explosion of laughter greeted this last sally. 

* And then I once mended a pair of boots since 
I came here,' Skourritoff continued coolly, ' for Lieu- 
tenant Stepan Fedorytch Pomortzeff.' 

' Was he pleased with them ? ' 

* I am sorry to say, my little brethren, that 
he was not. He swore at me, and even kicked me. 
Bless my soul, what a passion he was in ! Alackaday, 
what a queer thing life is after all ! 

' Wait a moment, stop a moment, 
Akoolioa's hosband*s coming,' 

sang he merrily, jumping up and down. 

* Stupid fool,' growled the Little-Kussian, casting 
at him a look of ineffable disgust. 

*He is a useless creature,' gravely remarked 

I was rather puzzled why they should be vexed 
with Skourdtoflf for being merry, and why all the 
men who seemed to be of a more cheerful disposition 
than the rest should be bullied and abused by them. 
My first thought, naturally enough, was that the 
LitUe-Russian had a personal grudge against Skour&- 
toff. ;Btit I soon convinced myself that there was 
nothing of the kind, and that poor Skour^toflfs only 
fault lay in a lack of personal dignity which was de 



rigueur in the prison. That was the reason why 
they called him a ' useless creature.* All those who 
were like SkourdtofT, good-humoured and afraid of 
giving offence, were most unmercifully bullied and 
abused by the others, while some who combined a 
cheerful disposition with a ready tongue, and never 
allowed themselves to be attacked without making 
their adversary smart for it by some cutting answer 
which turned the laugh against him, were sure to be 
respected and perhaps slightly feared by the rest. 

By this time we had reached the banks of the 
river. The old barges which we were to break up 
lay frozen in at our feet. Beyond, on the opposite 
bank, the white steppe stretched far away. It was 
altogether a dreary, desolate view which seemed cal- 
culated to fill the heart with that strange feeling of 
intense yearning which the sight of a vast plain 
always awakens in us. I had expected that the con- 
victs would rush down to their work at once, but was 
mistaken. Some sat down on logs of wood which 
lay about on the ground, and almost every one drew 
firom his boots a pouch with Siberian tobacco, which 
was sold at three copecks a pound, and short wooden 
jnpes which they had made themselves, and began to 
smoke. The soldiers who escorted us formed a chain 
around us and began to watch us, looking excessively 

' I wonder what they are going to do with this 
rotten timber,* remarked one of the men in an under- 
tone, as if talking to himself 

'They must be badly off for fueL' 

' I expect they are,' lazily answered another. . 

r r 




'Mliere are those peasants going?' asked the 
fii-st, after a pause. He had not even heard the 
answer to his remark, and was pointing to a party of 
peasants who were walking in single file across the 
snow at some distance. The men turned lazily round 
in that direction, and not having anything better to 
do for the moment began to ridicule them. The last 
man in the file walked rather in a peculiar fashion, 
stretching out his arms and holding his head, which 
was adorned by a tall fur cap, very much on one side. 
His whole figure stood out clearly against the white 

* Doesn't brother Petrovitch look quite a swell,' 
remarked one of the convicts, mimicking the peasant's 
dialect. I have often noticed that convicts despise 
the peasants, and look down upon them, although 
more than one-half of them have been peasants them- 

* The last man looks as if he were going to sow 
horse-radish,' observed another. 

* He is bowed down by many cares, for he is rich,' 
said a third. 

Here all the men laughed lazily. A woman came 
up with a basket of kalatchi for sale. The five 
copecks were immediately invested in the favourite 
delicacy, which was divided and eaten on the spot. 

A young fellow, who sold kalatchi in the prison, 
bought a score of them, and tried to persuade the 
woman to let him have three kalatchi out of ten, 
instead of one. But she remained inflexible, 

* Let me have that one too,' pleaded the youth. 

^ Is there anything else you want ? ' retorted she. 



* Yes, all the kalatchi that grow so stale, because 
vou can't sell (hem, that the mice won't eat them.' 

* Oh, you wretch ! * And the woman shrieked 
with laughter. 

At last the subaltern officer whose duty it was to 
sui>erintend oiu: work, made his appearance, stick in 


' Hallo there, what do you mean by sitting down 

instead of working ? Get up at once 1 ' shouted he. 

* Give us a task, if you please, Ivan Matveitch,' 
said one of the leaders, rising slowly to his feet. 

* "Why did you not ask for a task when you were 
s^nt here ? Pull the barge to pieces, there's a task 

for you.' 

After a good deal of hesitation the men at last 

ixHidesconded to rise, and went down slowly to the 

river. Two or three men immediately took the lead, 

a«d In^^'an to issue orders right and left which nobody 

oUi^ed. It had been decided that the barge was not 

to be chopped up into small pieces of wood, but that 

the planks were to be saved as much as possible, 

which *^\ye more work, especially as they were fiist- 

oucd to the ribs of the boat with large iron nails. 

* I suppose we had better take this piece of wood 
off first* Come here, boys,' called out one of the 
convicts who had hitherto remained in the back- 
rrround, putting his arms round a large piece of wood 
and waiting for help. But no help came. 

*0h, you are going to do it all, are you ? Yonll 
never do it, and if your grand£a,ther the old bear 
were here, he couldn't do it either/ growled some one. 

* But how am I to begin, brothers ? I really don't 

• I^'^iivMvIS 




know,' replied the man, letting the piece of wood 
go^ and standing up. 

* You cannot finish the whole job by yourself, and 
you might as well have stayed where you were.' 

* He has not wits enough about him to feed three 
hens, and lie wants to teach us. The dolt ! ' 

* But what have I done, brothers,' remonstrated 
the poor wretch ; * I only thought ' 

' I suppose you had better be wrapped up in brown 
paper and set aside ; or would you like me to pickle 
you for next winter ? ' shouted the sub, who had been 
standing by while all this bickering was going on, 
and feeling a little bewildered at the sight of twenty 
stalwart men who did not know how to pull a barge 
to pieces. * Be quick, will you.' 

' We can't do anything quicker than quick, Ivan 
Matveitch ! ' 

* You, at any rate, don't seem to be doing any- 
thing at all ! Hallo, there, Savelyeff, what are you 
standing there for, staring as if you wanted to sell 
your eyes to the highest bidder? Set about it at 
once ! ' 

* But I can't do everything myself.' 

* Do give us a task, Ivan Matveitch.' 

* I have said no once, and I am not going to do 
it. Pull the barge to pieces and then go home.' 

After much further deliberation the men iit last 
made up their minds to work, but they set about it 
in such a sleepy, lazy way, that I really felt vexed at 
seeing a crowd of strong healthy men work with so 
little energy. Hardly had they begun to remove the 
first plank when it broke in two. However, they 



aasured the sub that they could not have helped it, 
and that tlie whole thing must be done in a different 
way altogether. A long consultation then ensued, 
and as the discussion warmed they very nearly came 
to blows. The sub flourished his stick wildly and 
swore at them again, but another plank was smashed. 
It was discovered next that we were short of instru- 
ments, and two convicts, escorted by a soldier, went 
off to the fortress in search of them, while the rest 
sat down on the barge, calmly took out their pipes, 
and began to smoke again. 

At last the sub lost all patience. ^ Well, I don^t 
think that you will ever be short of work — I never 
saw such lazy people in all my life ! — never, never, 
never ; ' and he marched back to the fortress flourish- 
ing his stick and grumbling. 

An hour later the * conductor * arrived. He lis- 
tened quietly to what the convicts had to say, and 
told them that he was going to set them a task. They 
were to take out four more planks without breaking 
them, and pull the greater part of the barge to 
pieces, when they might go home. The task was by 
no means an easy one; but the men set about it with 
wonderful alacrity, and half an hour before the drum 
sounded for going home they were on their way back to 
the prison, tired out with their morning's labour, but as 
happy as children, having succeeded in gaining half 
an hour. There was one thing which had struck me 
in their behaviour towards me this morning. I* 
seemed to be always getting in their way, and every 
offer to help them was refused with harsh and un« 
kind words. Even a miserable, ragged wretch, who 



never dared to open his mouth in the presence of 
others who were cleverer than he, abused me when I 
happened to come too near him, under pretext that I 
was in his way. At last one of the men said to me, 
in a gruff voice, * What do you want here ? Go 
away. You have no business to be here.' 

* He is in a bag, and does not know how to get 
out of it,' remarked another. 

* You had better get a tin cup,' added a third, 
^ * and go and beg like a blind man's dog, instead of 
^ hanging about here.' 

So I was obliged to step aside and look on while 
they worked ; but their petty persecutions did not 
stop even when they had gained their end and driven 
me out of their midst. I had hardly stood aside 
for a moment, when some one cried, pointing to 
me, * That's the kind of workman they send to 
help us ! Did you ever see such a pack of lazy 
dogs ? ' 

All this was of course done on purpose, as nothingX 
could please them better than to torture and perse- / 
cute a gentleman. 

The reader will understand why almost the first 
question that I had ventilated in my mind on enter- 
ing the prison had been what would be my position 
with regard to the other convicts, and how I should 
behave towards them. I did not know then, nor did 
I learn till a long time after, that if I had prided 
myself on my gentle birth, despised them for being 
plebeians, and given myself airs, they would have 
respected me much more than they did, for then I 
should have been a perfect gentleman, according to 




their ideas. They would no doubt have sneered at 
me and abused me still, but for all that I should 
have answered to their conception of a gentleman. 
Again, if I had tried to flatter them, to win their 
favour by cringing before them,become hand and glove 
with them, they would have at once suspected me of 
cowardice, and despised me still more. On the other 
hand, I did not like to follow the example of the 
Poles, my fellow-sufferers, who had assumed towards 
them that tone of icy politeness which is so intensely 
galling and irritating. I knew very well that they 
despised me because I wanted to work like one of 
them, and did not give myself airs ; and though I 
was sure that in due time they would be obliged to 
change their opinion about me, still I could not help 
feeling grieved at the thought that they almost had 
a right to despise me now, for was I not in their eyes 
trying to ciurry favour with them by working like 
one of them? 

That same afternoon, when I returned home after 
finishing my task, I felt terribly sad and low-spirited. 
I shuddered at the thought of the long dreary years 
that were in store for me, of the thousands of days 
which would be exactly like one another, and probably 
like the one I had just passed. I was wandering 
about in the yard absorbed in my gloomy reflec- 
tions, wh^i I suddenly beheld our Sh4rik running to 
meet me. Sh&rik was our prison dog; be had lived 
in the convict prison since time immemprial, be- 
loxiged to DO one in particular^ looked upon every 
one of us individually as his master, and subsisted 
chiefly on broken meat and garbage. He was of 

: H?-f^>iV^.»*^ 


•■* f *i^^<'- 


common breed, black with white spots, with good 
clever eyes, and had a beautiful bushy tail. Nobody 
had ever petted the poor creature or cared for him 
till I came. I am naturally fond of dogs, and on the 
first day of my arrival I had stroked him and given 
him a piece of bread. The dog stood perfectly still 
while I stroked him, looking at me lovingly with his 
deep brown eyes, softly wagging his tail in sign of 
pleasure. To-night Shdrik had been looking for me 
everywhere, and when at last he caught sight of me in 
my dusky comer behind the prison he came up at full 
speed, whining with joy. I cannot tell how it hap- 
pened, but when I took his head between my hands and 
kissed it tenderly, the dog put both paws on my shoul- 
ders and began to lick my face. ^ Heaven has sent me 
a friend,' thought I ; and all through that terrible 
time, when I felt so lonely and wretched, I used to 
look forward every night to our meeting in the yard, 
in the little dark comer behind the prison. I always 
went there as soon as we came in, followed by poor 
Shdrik, who was leaping and whining with joy, and 
then, when we were quite alone, I would take his 
head in my hands and kiss it passionately, while at 
the same time a sweet sad feeling filled my heart. 
And I remember that I used to feel even a kind of 
secret exultation at the thought that there was only 
one being left in the whole world who really cared 
for me — my faithful dog Shdrik. 





As the time wore on, and days expanded into weeks, 
and weeks into months, I began to feel more at home 
in my new life. I no longer wondered at my com- 
panions or my surroundings. I knew that happiness 
iras out of the question for me, but I had made up my 
mind to fiice my &te with resignation, and bear it I 
would. Whatever doubts and misgivings still lurked 
in my heart I tried resolutely to put away from me, 
and I am happy to say I succeeded in my efforts. I 
no longer wandered about the prison absorbed in my 
grief, and unable to think of anything else except 
my misery. The curious looks of the convicts no 
longer followed me wherever I went. To my great 
relief they had at last grown accustomed to seeing 
me there. I felt at home in the convict prison, 
knew my place on the pallet, and had gradually got 
used to things that had appeared to me unbearable 
at first. 

It was the custom in the prison to have one's head 
shaved regnlariy once a week, for which purpose 
we were summoned by turns into the guard-room 
every Saturday afternoon, where the regimental 


i t' 


barbers lathered our heads with cold water aad soap, 
and scraped them mercilessly with the bluntest of 
razors. The very thought of this torture makes my 
flesh creep while I am writing about it. Happily, 
however, I did not have to suffer long, as Aklm 
Akimytch introduced me to a convict who shaved 
with his own razor for a copeck a head, and made 
quite a living out of it. Many of the convicts 
patronised his establishment rather than give them- 
selves up to the harbers, though they were by no 
means very delicate. Our barber had been nick- 
named Major, why I know not, for he was not in the 
least like our Major. While I am writing this the 
image of the Barber-major rises vividly before me — a 
tall, gaunt, stupid fellow, of an exceedingly taciturn 
disposition, whose soul seemed perfectly swallowed up 
in his work. He always carried a strop in his hand^ 
on which he kept whetting his razor day and night, 
and evidently considered shaving as the sole object 

and aim of his life. A once got into a terrible 

scrape in one of his conversations with our Major by 
speaking of our barber by his nickname. The Miyor 
flew into a violent rage. ^ Don't you know what a 
major is, you scoundrel ? ' roared he, foaming with 

passion, and kicking A , as was his wont on such 

occasions. ^ Don't you know what a major is ? You 
cur of a convict, how dare you call a convict a major 
to my very face ? ' 

I do not think that any one except A could 

ever have got on with a brute like our Major. 

From the first day that I entered the prison I 
iiad begun to think of the time when I should again 

K — 






be free, and it was my favourite occupation to 
calculate in different ways when my sentence would 
have expired. In fact I could hardly think of any- 
thing else, and am persuaded that every one in my 
position would have done the same thing. I do not 
know if my fellow-prisoners counted the days as I 
did ; still, I must confess that I was much struck by 
the buoyancy and wildness of their hopes. All people 
do not hope alike — e.g. a prisoner in a convict prison 
and a free man. The latter has always a distinct 
object in view, in hoping, e.g., a change in his outward 
circumstances or the fulfilment of some desire ; but 
at the same time his mind and body may be actively 
employed, and the very cares of life often prevent 
him from becoming too much absorbed in his hopes. 
The prisoner, it is true, is also actively employed ; 
bat he works and lives in a prison, and whatever- 
his sin may have been, and however well deserved his 
punishment is, he instinctively demurs against accept- 
ing his sentence as his final destiny. The convict 
persists in looking upon his cell as a temporary abode 
whtfe he is not, and cannot be, at home. Twenty 
years of penal servitude dwindle away into a mere 
nothing in his eyes, and he fully believes that he will 
leave the prison at fifty-five feeling as young and 
stiong as he does now at thirty-five. * I shall enjoy 
my life yet,' thinks he, and resolutely puts away 
whatever doubts and unpleasant thoughts about the 
fbtore may arise in his soul. Even those poor 
wretche8\whowecrein the-* Spedal Department,^ and 
had been senlenoed to penal servitude for life, had 
not given up hoping. For might not some day or 
,^ other there come an order from St. Petersburg to 




• t-»> 


isend them to the mines in Nertchinsk for a certain 
number of years. Would not that be a delightful 
change. It took nearly six months to get to Nert- 
chinsk, and then it is always more pleasant to travel 
with a large party than to be shut up in the convict 
prison I And when their term had expired in Nert- 

chinsky why then . I have known many an old 

man with grey hairs solace himself with similar 
dreams. I remember seeing once in Tob^l'sk some 
prisoners who were chained to the wall by a chain 
seven feet long. This is only done in extreme cases, 
when some horrible crime has been committed, in 
Siberia. Some are chained to their wall for five 
years, othei*s for ten. One among them apparently 
belonged to the upper classes, and had been a Tchi- 
novnik somewhere in his better days. He spoke in a 
soft, low voice with a sweet smile, and showed us his 
chains and how he managed to lie down comfortably 
on his bed. I have often wondered since what crime 
he could have committed. As a rule, prisoners of 
this class behave themselves verv well and seem 
satisfied with their position, though they look for- 
ward impatiently to the time when their sentence 
will have expired. Will they regain their liberty 
then ? By no means ; but they will be allowed to 
leave the dull gloomy prison cell with its low brick 
vaults, and to walk up and down in the prison yard 
and have a little fresh air. That is alL For they 
know full well that they must spend the rest of their' 
life in chains and in prison till death sets them free. 
Yet they count the days when they wiU no longer be 
chained to the wall, for if this punishment were to 

K 2 



be endless, could tbey bear it without dying of des- 
jMlr or going mad ? 

I felt that the terrible moral depression which 
weighed on me day and night, the constant jarring 
to which my nerves were exposed, and the bad air of 
the cells, would irretrievably ruin my health in a 
very short time, unless I used all my energy to 
ooonteract these evil influences. The only way to do 
this and to strengthen my body was to work hard^ 
I resolved to spend as much time in the open air a& 
possible, to tire myself out physically every day, and 
to aoeostom myself to carry heavy weights, so as to 
leave the prison strong and healthy. And I was 
right. Work and exercise saved me from a premature 
old age, and kept me from wasting slowly away like 
one of my comrades, a gentleman by birth like myself* 
We had entered the prison together. He was then a 
handsome young man in the prime of life ; he left it 
a giey^haired asthmatic old man who had lost the 
use of his Iq^s. *• No,' said I to myself, looking at him, 
^ I will live, and live I shalL' For a long time my 
pasrion for working made me the object of endless. 
sarcasms and biting remarks from my fellow-prisoners; 
bat I lesolutdy remained deaf to all they said, and 
wmrfced away bravely. Almost the first thing I 
learned to do was to bum and grind alabaster, which 
is veiy easy work. The director of the engineering 
depaitment did whatever was in his power to spare 
us. This was by no means a special £Eivour,.but 
oommon justice, as it w:ould be ridiculous to expect 
an individual who is possessed of only half th^ physical 
strength of a working*man, and has never worked in 

;• <•- 



ifaid life, to get through the same task in the same time 
as the latter. However, he did not succeed always in 
^ spoiling ' us, and had often to do it as it were by- 
stealth, for we were too closely watched, and had 
frequently to work twice as hard as the other work- 
men. Three or four of us, mostly old or weak men, 
were generally sent to bum alabaster under the 
superintendence of a convict who knew the work 
thoroughly. For many years we worked under the 
direction of one Almisoff, a bony, gloomy-looking 
man with a very dark complexion. He abhorred 
talking so much that, although he despised us from 
the bottom of his soul, he never took the trouUe to 
swear at us. The shed where we worked stood in 
a lonely spot by the river-side. Nothing could be 
more dreary, especially on a dark winter's day, than 
the view of the river and its opposite banks. There 
was something intensely melancholy in that wild 
and desolate landscape. But it seemed still worse on 
a bright day, when the sun shone on the white snow. 
At such times I always felt an irrepressible longing to 
fly away into this boundless steppe, which began on 
the other side of the river and stretched towards the 
south tor about fifteen hundred versts. Alm^ff 
used to set about his work in a gloomy silence which 
never failed to impress us with a sense of our own 
helplessness and inability to work. He invariably 
declined our offers of help, and made a great show of 
•doing everything himself. It is true' that all his 
labours consisted in making a fire in the oven where 
the alabaster which we brought in was burned. The 
next day the alabaster was taken out again ; 

k . 






provided ourselves with a hammer, put Bome alabas* 
ter into a box, and set to work with a goodwill, I was 
very fond of this work. The brittle alabaster turned 
into dazzling white powder under the strokes of our 
hammers, which we swung lustily till we felt hot and 
exhausted. We always felt better at such times ; the 
blood seemed to flow more rapidly through our veins. 
Even Alm&soff would relent occasionally, and smoke 
his pipe with a more condescending air, though he 
coold not help growling at us when he was obliged to 
sav something. I must say to bis justification that 
it never made acy difference with him whether he 
spoke to his equals or to us — he was equally un- 
pleasant to everybody, though after all I do not think 
that he was a bad man. 

Occasionallv I used to be sent to the turner's 
workshop to turn the fly*wheel. This was no easy 
job, and it took a great deal of strength to turn it, 
especially when the turner was working at some 
large object, such as the leg of a table. As one man 
could hardly have managed it by himself, I was sent 

with another gentleman, a certain B , to do the 

work, and for many a year we turned that wheel 
together. B- was a puny, delicate young man, 
who suffered a good deal from his weak lungs. He 
had come a year before me, together with two other 
gentlemen. One was an old man, who spent his 
nights and days in prayer (to the great admiration 
of the other convicts), and who died in my time;. 
the other was a youth, almost a boy, who had carried 

S on his back for the last seven hundred versts^^ 

as the latter was too much exhausted to walk.. 





They were intimate friends. B was a* highly- 
educated, noble, generous-minded man, whoee beauti- 
ful disposition had unfortunately been much soured 
by ill-health. 

Another kind of work of which I was very fond 
was shovelling snow. In winter time, when the snow- 
storms lasted sometimes for twenty- four hours, it 
frequently happened that the houses were half buried 
in the snow. When the storm was over and the sun 
came out again, we were sent out in large parties to 
shovel the snow away from the Government build- 
ings. A tremendous task was appointed us ; we each 
had a shovel given us, and we all set to work unani- 
mously, thrusting our shovels deep into the soft 
fresh snow, which had hardly had time to freeze on 
its surface, and throwing it over our shoulders in 
I huge white lumps, which turned into a silvery dust 

as they fell. The fresh wintry air and the exercise 
always had an exhilarating effect on the men. They 
laughed and shouted, threw snowballs at each other 
till the air grew thick with flying masses of snow, 
and the more sensible members of the party put a 
stop to the proceedings, and the whole thing ended 
in a violent quarrel. 

By this time the circle of my acquaintances had 
gradually increased. To tell the truth, I had done 
very little towards extending it, for I still felt rest- 
less and indisposed to talk ; but, somehow or other, 
my friends seemed to spring up around me like 
L. mushrooms. The first who called on me was a con- ^ 

J vict named Petr6ff. I have put a. special emphasis | 

on the words ^ called on me,' because Petr6ff lived in | 



the Special Department at the other end of the 
prison. There could be ver; little in common be- 
tween us to all appearances, and still Petr6ff seemed 
to consider it his duty to pay me a visit nearly every 
night in my cell, or to exchange a few words with me 
during my leisure time, when I used to walk up and 
down behind the prison, trying to escape for a time 
at least the curious glances of my fellow-convicts. 
At first I thought him rather a bore, but he managed 
60 cleverly that his visits became quite a pleasant 
diversion to me, although he was not a great talker 
and rather reticent than otherwise. He was below 
middle stature, but of strong build, and very quick 
and even graceful in his movements. His face was 
pale, and might have been called handsome had his 
cheekbones been less high. His eyes had a curiously 
defiant look, his teeth were very small and white, and 
he always had a pinch of snu£f between his gums and 
under-lip — putting snu£f into their mouths was a 
habit with many convicts. He was forty years old, 
but looked ten years younger. There was some- 
thing excessively refined in his manner towards me ; 
if he thooght that I wished to be alone, he would 
perhaps talk to me for two or three minutes, when he 
woohl take his leave, thanking me for my kindness. 
This was, of course, a delicate attention which he 
never paid to any one else in the prison. We con- 
tinued on the same footing for many years, never 
liecoming more intimate, although he was sincerely 
attadied to me. I have often wondered since what: 
could have attracted him to me to make him 
visit me eveiy day. He hardly ever borrowed money 




from me, and although he subsequently stole severaA 
of my things, he seemed to do this rather en passant j \ 
-without any premeditated intention on his part. I | 
hardly can tell why I always felt as if he did not live / 
in the same prison as me, but somewhere else, in 
another house, in the town, and only came in occa- 
sionally to see how we were all getting on and to hear 
the latest news. He always seemed to be in a hurry, 
as if he had made an appointment with somebody 
to meet him somewhere, or had left something un- 
finished, and yet there was nothing bustling about 
him. There was, sis I have said before, a curious look 
in his eyes, half-daring and half-sarcastic, but he 
alwaya seemed to be looking at something far beyond 
the object that happened to be nearest to him. This 
peculiarity gave him often an absent expression. I 
sometimes tried to find out whither he hurried oflF 
after speaking to me, and if any one expected him 
anywhere. But all I could discover was that he 
rushed away either into another cell or the kitchen, 
and if there happened to be any conversation going 
on he would sit down beside one of the men, listen 
attentively^ sometimes even put in a word himself, 
^et quite excited, and then suddenly stop short and 
lapse into silence. But whether he talked or was 
silent he .always seemed to be ready to start up at a 
moment's notice and run to the place where he was 

He never worked for himself after finishing his 
<laily task, for he knew no trade, and consequently 
never had any money. What could we two find to 
talk about ? His conversation was of as peculiar a 



type as he himself was. Thus, for instance, he would 
catch sight of me as I was walking about moodily 
behind the prison, and suddenly wheel round and 
come up to me. He always walked very fast, and had 
a peculiar habit of turning round sharply. 

* Good afternoon.' 

* Good afternoon.' 

* I hope I have not disturbed you ?' 

*I wanted to ask you about Napoleon. Is he 
not related to that Napoleon who was here in 
1812?' Petroff had been educated in a Govern- 
ment school for the sons of soldiers, and could read 
and write. 


' I want to ask what they mean by calling him 
the President ? ' 

Whenever he asked any questions, he always did 
it in a sharp nervous manner, as if he were bent on 
getting as much information as possible on a highly 
, important subject which brooked no delay. 

I explained to him Napoleon's position as well as 
I could, adding that he might perhaps some day be- 
come Emperor of the French. 

•How is this?' 

I explained this also. Petroff listened attentively, 
and even inclined his head towards me to show how 
interested he was. 

* H'm, h'm ! I want to ask you sometliing, Alex* 
ander Petrdvitch. Im it true that there are monkeys 
lAo have such long aims that they touch their heels 
with their hands, and who are as tall as the tallest 



* Yes ; there are such monkeys.' 

* I should like to know all about them.' 

I described these interesting animals to him to 
the best of my abilities. 

* Where do they live ? ' 

'In the hot countries. There are some on the 
Island of Sumatra.' 

* That's in America, is it not ? I have been told 
that the people there walk on their heads.' 

' I suppose you mean the antipodes.' I told him 
all I knew about America and the antipodes, while 
be listened as attentively as if he had come only to 
hear about the latter. 

' Aha, I read a book last year about the Countess 
Lavalli^re. AreQeflF borrowed it from the Aide-de- 
camp. It's Dumas's. Can you tell me if it is a true 
story ? ' 

* No ; it is fiction.' 

* Well, good-bye. Thank you very much.' And 
Petr6ff disappeared ; and our next conversation wa& 
the exact repetition of this one. 

I began to feel quite an interest in Petr6fir, and 

tried to find out more about him. M , hearing 

of our acquaintance, warned me at once not to be- 
come too intimate with him, adding, that although 
he had been afraid of many of the convicts at firsts 
still not one of them, not even G^sin, had produced 
on him such a terrible impression as Petx6ff. < He is 
the most energetic and fearless of all the oonvicta 
here/ said he, ' and is capable of doing anything* 
Nothing can prevent him from carrying out hia 
plans. . He will cat your throat, should he feel in-*, 



^dined to do so, and never even feel sorry for it 
afterwards. I sometimes can't help thinking that 

be must be mad.' 31 's definition of Petroff 's 

<iisposition could not fail to interest me very much, 
though I was rather disappointed when I found that 
he was after all unable to account for his opinion of 
him. Strange to say, although I have known him 
for years, during which hardly a day passed without 
our having a little confabulation together,, and 
although I never knew him do anything positively 
wrong, yet every time we talked together I could not 

help feeling that after all M was right. I have 

never been able to analyse this feeling clearly myself. 
I must add that Petroff was the convict who, as I 
have related, intended to kill our Major when he was 
being led out to be flogged, and that the former was 
only saved by a miracle, through leaving the prison 
before the execution began. I heard that Petroff 
had l)een sent to the convict prison for stabbing his 
colonel. The latter had struck him one day while 
they were drilling. Undoubtedly PetnSff had been 
struck many a time before; but this happened to 
be once too often, and he killed his officer on the 
spot, in the presence of the whole battalion. I do not 
know the particulars of his story, for he never told me. 
He seldom quarrelled with any one, but he never made 
friends, with the exception, perhaps, of. Sirdtkin, 
though their firiendship was by no means a very 
constant one, and only reached its climax when he 
wanted the latter to do something for him. Once, only 
•ofioe, I nw him in a passion. He was quarrelling 
About some rags with another convict, called Yassily 



AHt6noff. His antagonist was a civil prisoner, a tall,, 
herculean man, with a sarcastic, quarrelsome disposi. 
tion, and no coward. They had been quarrelling for 
some time, and I supposed that if it came to the worst 
they might not unlikely come to blows, knowing that 
PetrdfF could at times swear and fight like the very 
worst of the convicts. But I was mistaken. PetrdfiT 
suddenly turned pale ; his lips began to tremble and. 
grew white, he breathed with difficulty, and rising 
from his seat, he went slowly up to Antonoff, step- 
ping noiselessly with his bare feet (he always went 
barefoot in summer). The other convicts, who had 
been talking and laughing among themselves, sud- 
denly grew silent ; you might have heard a pin falL 
Everybody was eager to see what would happen.^ 
Antonoff sprang to his feet, looking as white as a 
sheet. I left the room, expecting every moment to 
hear the shrieks of the murdered man. But the 
affair took an altogether different turn. Before Petr6ff 
had come up to Ant6noff, the latter had flung down 
the object they were quarrelling about without 
saying a word. To do him justice, he did swear a^ 
little at Petr6ff a short time after, only just enough 
to clear his conscience, and to show that after all he 
was not afraid of him. But Petrdff never took the 
slightest notice of his imprecations, and did not even 
deign to answer them, but picked up the rags with 
an air of great satisfaction. A quarter of an hour 
later he was, as usual, lounging about the prison in 
search of some interesting conversation in which he 
might join. He often reminded me of an able work- 
man who, while waiting for a job, sits down to play 



with a baby. I never ooald understand wby he did 
not run away, as nothing would have prevented his 
so doing if he had once set his mind on doing it. A 
nature like his allows itself to be controlled by com- 
mon sense only to a certain point, when some ardent 
desire takes the upper hand and carries everything 
before it. I am quite certain that he would have 
•contrived his escape cleverly and deceived us all, had 
he so been minded, and he might even have existed 
without food for a week or more, hiding in the woods 
or in the rushes by the riverside. But evidently the 
possibility of escainng had never entered his mind 
yet, or perhaps he had never ardently longed for 
freedom. People like him are bom into this world 
with one idea in their heads, which unconsciously 
drives them hither and thither all their lives till they 
find the work they are fitted for. Another source of 
wonderment to me was the meekness with which a 
man who had stabbed his colonel for striking him 
submitted to be flogged. He, like many other con-\ 
victs who had no fixed occupation, used sometimes 1 
to smuggle liquor into the prison, and was conse- 
quently liable to be detected and punished. But 
whenever he lay down to be flogged he seemed to 
have made up his mind that it must be so, as he had 
deserved it fully. If this had not been the case, I 
doubt if any earthly power could have made him 
submit to punishment. Another curious trait in 
his character was a periodical mania for robbing me, 
wfaidi contrasted oddly enough with his professed 
attachmirait to me* One day, as I have said, he stole 
my Bible, which I bad given him to carry. He had 







• : 


\only a few steps to go, but managed to sell it on the 
/"way, and spent the money in drink. I suppose he 
j wanted liquor very much just then, and could not 
help it. The very same night he calmly informed 
me of the occurrence without the least feeling of 
; contrition or embarrassment, as if it had been the 
most natural thing in the world to do. I tried to 
scold him, for the loss of my Bible was a serious 
matter to me. He listened quietly and patiently to 
my reproaches, fully agreed with me that the Bible 
is a useful book, felt very sorry that I should have 
been deprived of mine, but never expressed any re- 
gret at having stolen it. I cannot help thinking 
that he bore my reproaches so meekly because he 
was conscious of having deserved them, and thought 
it might do me good to vent my wrath on him, but 
that after all he was all the time wondering in his 
heart why I should make such a fuss about a trifle. 
I was in his eyes a mere baby, too innocent to under- 
stand even the most common thing in this world, and 
he took no pains to hide this opinion from me, for 
I frequently noticed that whenever I tried to lead 
the conversation on some other topic besides books 
and science, he invariably favoured me with the very 
shortest answers. I have often asked myself why he 
should feel such a warm interest in books and other 
learned subjects which generally formed the subject 
of our conversation. I even watched him to see if 
he were making fun of me, but he always listened 
very seriously, except that his face always bore that 
absent look which annoyed me sometimes. The ques- 
tions he asked me were all put in a concise, dogma- 



tical kind of way, yet he never seemed to feel mucb 
interested in the information he obtained. I suppose 
that he had made up his mind at once, without trou- 
bling himself much about it, that I was altogether 
different from other people, and therefore unable to 
appreciate any conversation which had no reference 
to books ; and if so, what was the good of worrying 
me with other things ? 

' I am sure that he loved me; but though this 
feeling amid not prevent him from robbing me, I 
am certain that it furnished him with a plausible 
excuse for doing so, and even for being sorry for me 
all the time. * Queer chap, can't even take care of 
his own goods ! ' I remembar he once accidentally 
tdd me that I was ^ too good-natured/ ^ You are so 
green-— «o very green--*that one can't help feeling 
sorry for you.' ^ Excuse me for saying so, Alexander 
Petrovitch,' he added after a short silence ; ' but I 
could not help telling you.' 

^?1^ '.-i^,-;.« 


• t 



Onb evening, soon after my arrival, I was lying 
wearily on my pallet. The convicts were either busy 
working for themselves or asleep. Two or three 
men were talking together, one of them seemed to be 
telling the other something. I listened involun- 
tarily, and heard a curious tale about a murder which 
the narrator had committed some time ago. The 
narrator was Louka Kausmitch, the short, thin, 
sharp-^nosed young convict of whom I have already 
spoken. His parents were Russians, but he had been 
bom on his master's estate -in Little Russia, and 
prided himself .on being a Khokhol, i.e. Little Russian. 
His face involuntarily reminded one of the proverb, 
^ A small bird has a sharp beak.' But convict pri- 
soners seem to have a peculiar gift of reading a man's 
character, and in spite of Louka's sharpness, and the 
pains he took to pass for a terrible criminal with an 
iron will, they despised him cordially, and took no 
pains to disguise their feelings. He was a shirt- 
maker by trade, and on this particular evening was 
busily engaged sewing a shirt. By his side sat 
Kobylin, a large, heavy-looking,< but good-natured 





fellow, whom Louka patronised occasionally, but 
more fi^uentlj ordered about and snubbed, and 
scolded, and bullied, as if he were the master and 
Kobylin his serf. The drudge was knitting a worsted 
stocking listening to Louka, who was narrating some- 
thing in a very loud voice, evidently hoping to attract 
the attention of the rest, although to all appear- 
ance he was talking to his neighbour. 

* You see, brother,' he was saying, * I was being 
sent to Teh for begging.' 

' How long ago is that ? ' asked Kobylin. 

* It will be two years by the time the pease are 

ripe, I expect. We passed through K on our 

way to Teh——, and they put me into prison there 
for a short time. I found good company there, I can 
tcU you — twelve Khokhly,* all tine fellows and every 
one of them as strong as a horse. But you never 
saw such milksops in your life — they were as meek 
as lambs, for they were starving. The food was bad, 
and their Major treated them like brutes and not 
like men. I soon saw through it all, and said to 
them one fine day, ^ Why do you give in to such a 

'^YoQ had better speak to him yourself," said 
they, and even laughed at me for daring to think of 
sudi a thing as opposing their Major. Well, I held 
my peace. There was such a queer Kh6khol there, 
my brothers.' He suddenly interrupted his tale^ and 
addressing the rest, went on. ^ He used to tell us how 
he had remonstiated with the magistrates when they 
aent him to prison, and cried while he was telling 

* Plana of Kh^kliol. 


T r-.J, 




* t 

U89 for he said be had a wife and children at home, 
poor fellow. He was a large fat old man with grey 
hair, and I think I hear him now repeating his con- 
versation with the clerk: "Says I to him, 'No, no!' 
But that son of the devil would go on writing, 
writing! Says I to myself. May you be struck dead 
on the spot, or choke or die in some other way. But 
he goes on writing, writing, writing, and when he 
had done writing, it was all over with me." Give me 
another thread, Vassya. What wretched, bad stuff 
this thread is.' 

* It was bought in the market,' replied Vassya, 
handing him a thread. 

* Our thread is better. I sent the invalided sol- 
dier to buy some for me, and I wonder where he got 
this? I suppose at some wretched old woman's,' con- 
tinued Louka, threading his needle. 

' I suppose she is an old friend of his.' 
' I suppose she is.' 

* But what about the Major ? ' interposed Koby- 
lin, who had been forgotten during this dialogue. 

Louka had long been expecting to be reminded 
that he had not finished his tale. However, as it 
never does to appear too eager to speak about one- 
self, he pretended not to hear Kobylin's remark, but 
went on sewing in silence for a few minutes ; then 
recrossing his legs (he was sitting cross-legged on 
his pallet) he continued his tale leisurely : 

^ At last I succeeded in rousing my Kh6khly, and 
they sent for the Major to come and speak to them. 
I took the precaution of borrowing a knife from my 
neighbour, and hid it in my sleeve in case it shouM 

L 2 



be wanted. We heard that the Major bad come, 
and I said to them, ^^ Don't be frightened, boys. 
Speak up like men ! " But bless them all ! their soul 
had gone right down into their heels, and they shook 
with fear. In comes the Major, drunk of course. 

' ^ What do you mean by sending for me I What 
in the devil's name is going on here ? " shouts he. 
** Don't you know that I am your Q-od and your 

* When he said " I am your God and your Czar,** 
I stepped forward. There was the knife hidden in 
my sleeve. 

* ^ rbeg your pardon, most high-bom one," said I, 
getting nearer and nearer to him as I spoke, '^ but 
you cannot be both Crod and the Czar ? " 

' ^ So you are the ringleader ? " screams the Major. 
. ^ ^ No," says I, coming quite close to him, ^* most 
high-born <Mie, I am no mutineer and no ringleader ; 
but I dare say you know yourself that we have but 
one God, and that He is almighty and omnipresent, 
and we have but one Czar, whom Gt)d has placed 
over us. He is a monarch, most high-bom one ; and 
you are only a Major whom it has pleased the Czar 
to set over us." 

* ^ What, what, what, what," my Major cackled 
like an old hen. I thought he was going to choke 
with rage. 

<<<Take that," says I, sticking the knife right into 
him* He tDmUeddown all of a heap, kicked a little, 
and it was all over. I threw the knife away, and* 
said to the Eh6khly, "< Pick him up." ' 

*I expect you caught it,' coolly remarked Eo- 


loOka's history. 





* H'm I I did catch it, I can tell yoi;, brother* 
Hand me the scissors, Alei. Why is there op mai'ddn 
going on to-night, brothers ? ' 

' I suppose they have no money to go on with,* 
says Vassya. ^ If they had some, we might have 
had one.' 

* If 1 They give you a hundred roubles in Moscow 
for *'ifs"I' said Louka. 

' How many lashes did you say you got, Louka ? ' 
began Kobylin again. 

* Only five hundred, dearest friend.' * I very nearly 
died that time, brethren,' added Louka, again 
ignoring Kobylin's presence. ' I had never been 
flogged with the knout before. It was terrible. 
The whole town had come to see how they would 
punish a murderer. Ugh, what blockheads those 
people were. Timosha^ helped me to undress, laid 
me flat on a bench, and called out, ^' Look out I " I 
wondered what was going to happen. He struck 
the first blow; I tried to scream and opened my 
mouth, but not a sound could I utter, for I had lost 
my voice. After the second blow I fainted dead 
away, and never heard them even count two. Then 
I remember nothing till I heard seventeen. Why, 
they had to stop four times and let me rest half an 
hour, and pour cold water over me ! There I sat 
staring at them all, and thinking tliat my end had 

* But it hadn't come after all ? ' asked Kobylin. 
Louka merely looked conteniptuously at him. 

The rest burst out laughing. 

' Cant for hangman or executioner. ** 




' I fear there must be something very wrong 
here,' remarked Loiika, tapping his forehead with 
an injured air, as if he regretted having wasted so 
mudi time and strength on such a noodle. 

* He is a queer chap,' affirmed Vassja. 

Louka had murdered six people in his life, and 
tried very hard to make the convicts believe that he 
was a terrible fellow, yet nobody feared him in the 
prison! . 








' Ohristmas Day was approaching fast. Seeing my 

[ fellow-prisoners look forward to it so eagerly, I too 

caught myself hoping that some unforeseen event 
might come to pass. Four days before Christmas 
Day we were ordered to take a bath. In my time, 
and especially during the first years of my imprison- 
ment, a bath was a luxury which we seldom enjoyed, 
and consequently everybody was delighted at the 
prospect, and set at once about making the necessary 
preparations with great glee. In honoui' of the 
event we had had a half-holiday given us, as we were 
to go down early in the afternoon. The busiest and 
happiest of all was Issai Fomitch Bumstein, a Jewish 
<M>nvict, of whom I have already made mention in the 
fourth chapter of my memoirs. He was passionately 
fond of bathing, and used to get up on the highest 
«helf, where the steam was hottest, and bribe some 
•one to beat him with birch twigs till he was nearly 
beside himself with the heat and excitement. Every 
^c;« .Y^.^ • time that I remember our bath-room — ^which, in fact, 

/ it would be most difficult to forget — the face and 

figure of my most worthy and ne ver-to-be-forgo** ■- 



foom-fdlow bsai Fomitch rises before me. I hav& 
already described him — ^a shrivelled, sharp-faced man 
of fifty. There was a curious expression of placid 
self-complacency on his face, which nothing seemed 
ever able to disturb. I often wondered what made 
the convicts treat him so leniently ; they never ridi- 
cnled or abused him, but contented themselves with 
a few good-humoured jokes and inoffensive witticisms 
at his expense. They even used to say to each other, 
when Issai Fomitch had been more than usually 
teased, * Do let our own Issai Fomitch alone — what 
would become of us if he were taken ? ' Whereupon 
Issai Fomitch drew himself proudly up and cast a 
triumphant look around him, pretending not to see 
that after all he was the laughing««tock of the prison. 
His arrival there had been as good as a farce — at 
least I was told so, for he had arrived there some 
time before me. One fine evening the rumour had 
suddenly spread that a new-comer, a Jew, was then 
being shaved in the guard-room, and would in a short 
time be brou^t into the celL As there happened to 
be no other Jew in the prison at that time, the con- 
victs naturallv felt much interested in their new com- • 
rade, and crowded round him the moment he crossed 
the threshold. The sergeant-at-arms took him into a 
odl, and showed him where he was to. sleep. Issai 
Fomitch carried in his hand a bag containing hi& 
clothing, which had just been delivered, to him, and 
a few of his own things. He put the bag down on> 
the floor, and, scrambling upon his pallet, sat dQW[n> 
on it cross-legged, feeling &r too frightened to look. 






• '., 


around him, while the convicts indulged in a few 
witty remarks concerning his birth and nationality. 
Suddenly a young convict pressed through the crowds 
carrying in his hand a pair of dirty, old, ragged 
summer trousers. He sat down by the new-comer, 
and striking him on the shoulder, said : 

* Well, dear friend, so you have come at last I I 
have been waiting for you to come these six years. 
How mucli will you give me for these ? ' he added^ 
displaying the aforenamed tattered garment. 

Poor Issai Fomitch — who had been in such a state 
of terror all this time that he had not even dared to 
steal a glance at the hideous repulsive faces which 
surrounded him, and still less to utter a word — sud- 
denly revived at the sight of the trousers. He took 
them, held them up to the light, and examined them 
minutely, while the crowd was waiting breathless with 
curiosity to hear what he would say. 

^ You can't give less than a rouble for them, you 
know,' continued the young fellow, winking at Issiu 

* I can't give you a rouble, but I will let you have 
seven copecks if you like.' 

These were the first words spoken by Issai Fo- 
mitch in the prison, and they were greeted by a 
shout of laughter. 

' Seven ! All right, hand them over, 'tis your 
luck. But mind you take good care of the things^ 
Jew. I shall claim them in good time.' 

< Seven, and three per cent., makes ten copecks 
in all,' continued the Jew, in a trembling voice^ 


puttiiig his hand in his pocket and glancing furtively 
at the convicts. He was still terribly afraid of them, 
though he coold not resist the temptation of doing a 
little business. 

' You mean three per cent, for a year ? ' 
'No, no, not for a year, but for a month.' 
• *D<^ of a Jew, what^s your name ? ' 

* bsai Fomitch.' 

' Well, Issai Fomitch, mark my word, you will 
go &r in this world. Good-bye.' 

Issai Fomitch once more carefully examined the 
trousers, then, fdding them up, put them into his 
hag amidst roars of laughter from the convicts. 

He grew to be quite a favourite in the prison, 
although there was hardly a convict who did not owe 
him money. Louka, who had had a good deal to do 
with Jews in his time, used to plague and tease him 
sometimes as one would tease a dog or a parrot, 
that is for fun. Issai Fomitch was well aware of 
that^ and seemed rather to enjoy being teased than 
otherwise, and was never afraid of answering back. 

* Look out, Jew; I am going to give youas sound 
a drubbing as you ever had, one of these days.' 

'If you hit me once I shall hit you back ten 
times,' answers Issai Fomitch with great composure* 

' Confounded heap of rags I ' 

'I 6odX care if I am a heap of rags.' 

'Wretched tatterdemalion of a Jewl ' 

'*Ti8 aU the same to me, provided I have my 
podoets fun of mon^.' 


' Not that I know of.' 


• I 

■ » 

.-■»-"*-. ' 




* Hurrah tor Issai Fomitch I Leave him alone, 
what should we do if he were taken from us ? ' shouted 
the convicts. 

* If you don't beware, Jew, you'll be flogged, and 
sent to Siberia.' 

* I thought I was there now.' 

* They'll send you further on, to the very end of it.' \ 

* Will God be there?' 

* I suppose so.' ; 

* Then I don't care. If God is there, and I have 
plenty of money in my pocket, I shall be all right, 
I dare say ! ' 

* Hurrah for Issai Fomitch ! ' roar the others, and 
the Jew looks roimd triumphantly. He likes being 
praised, and shows his gratification by beginning to 
sing in a high squeaking voice a tune, or rather a 
song, if the constant repetition of the monosyllable 
* la' may be termed a song, which, by-the-bye, was the 
only song he ever gave us during the whole time he 
spent in the prison. The tune was also a very pecu- 
liar one, or rather was no tune at all ; but when we 
became better acquainted, he assured me upon his 
oath that this was the identical tune which the 
600,000 Israelites had sung when they crossed the 
Red Sea, and that every Jew was bound by their law 
to sing it when he had gained a victory over his 
•enemies. ^ 

Every Friday night our cell used to be crowded 
with convicts who came to see Issu Fomitch say his , ^ 
prayers — to his great gratification; as he was a very, 
vain man. He used to begin his devotions by put^ 
ting a white cloth on a very small table in the 



after which ceremony he produced a book, which he 
opened and laid on the table, lighted two candles,, 
and finally put on his ^robes' (as he called them), 
muttering certain mysterious words all the time» 
His * robes ' consisted of a cloak made of some coarse, 
striped woollen material, which he always kept care- 
fully locked away in his box. He then proceeded to 
tie a kind of bracelet round his wrists, and contrived 
to fasten to his forehead a curious wooden imple- 
ment, not unlike a box, which made him look rather 
like a unicorn. Having at last completed all these 
preliminaries, he b^;an to say his prayers, or rather 
to chant them, at the top of his voice, spitting and 
writhing himself into queer contortions, and making 
all sorts of ludicrous and uncouth gestures. We all 
knew that this was the prescribed form of prayer, 
and nobody would ever have laughed at it if only 
Issai F'omitch had not exaggerated it so as to make 
it ridiculous. At a certain moment he covered his 
&ce with his hands and b^^n to sob violently ; the 
sobbing gradually became a howl ; he seemed almost 
miaUe to stand with grief and exha:ustion, and, bow- 
ing low, laid his head with its wooden ornament on 
the book. Suddenly, in the very midst of his grief, 
he burst out laughing, and went on chanting his 
prayers in a voice trembling with joy. * What is 
the matter with him now?' one of the convicta 
would ask in a loud whisper. I once asked him what 
this sudden change from the deepest grief to the 
most exuberant joy meant. Issai Fomitch was de- 
lighted to have me ask him questions about hi8> 
religion. He at once proceeded to explain to me 



« «-:^ 

. * 


V >«. 

ISSAl* F0M1TC^. 167 

^ - » rf "-V. ■ 1 • ■ < 


that sobbing and weeping had been prescribed hj 
their law to express the grief of the Jews at the faU 
of Jerusalem and their banishment from their native 
land, and that they were commanded to sob as loud ^ 

as possible and even beat their breast at such times. |^ 

But in the midst of his deepest grief he must sud- t 

denly, and, as it were, accidentally remember — ^this * 

was also prescribed by the law — ^that there existed a 4 

prophecy concerning the return of the Jews to Jef u- >• 

salem, and all at once manifest his joy by laughing, 
singing, clapping his hands, repeating his prayers f 

in a joyful voice, while at the same time his face 
must assume a solemn and noble expression. Issai 
Foniiitch was delighted with this sudden change I 

from grief to joy, and especially with its being pre- | 

scribed by the law, and assured me that it was a /i 

most diiBcult thing to do well. Once when he was f 

in the midst of his devotions the Major came into i 

the cell, accompanied by the officers on duty and | 

the warders. The convicts all rose respectfully from *: 

their pallets, but Issai* Fomitch screamed louder 
and wriggled about even more frantically than before. 
He knew that no objections could be raised against 
his saying his prayers, and at the same time dared 
not interrupt them, as all interruptions were strictly 
prohibited by the law. The Major, on hearing those 
dismal shrieks, came up to see what was the matter, I 

and stopped in front of him, Issai Fomitch turned 

his back on the table and went on chanting his pro- 

• • -. ■ .* 

phecy, accompanying his recitatiYe with wild gesti- ^ 
culations. As this happened to be the pa^ -^^ 

ment when his countenance was to express happiness . 


■ -J- 



ud DobiUty, be griimed, winked with both ^es at 
the Major, and nodded his head violently. The 
latter stared at him for some moments, then burst 
oat laughing, called him a fool, add left the room, 
while Issai Fomitch screamed louder than he bad 
erer done before. As he was eating his supper an 
boor later, I asked him what be would have done 
iftbe Major bad taken the whole thing ilL 

* Whom do 70U mean ? ' asked be. 

* ^TiT) o\a Major I Did you not see him ? ' 
' No, I did not.' 

* 'Vt'by he stopped right in front of you.' 

But IsBai Fomitch assured me gravely that he 
had not seen the Major, because be always fell into 
a trance when he was saying his pr&yera, and conse- 
quently neither saw nor heard what was going oa 
about him. I seem to see Issai Fomitch now, wan- 
d^ing about the prison on Saturdays, and seeking 
to carry out the prescriptions of the law to their full 
ext^t by doing nothing at alL He would come 
faom>^ from the synagc^ue brimful of "'' •"'"''■' -' 
improbable news and rumours from Si 
which be would repeat to me, togetbe 
anecdotes, assuring me solemnly that 1 
than &(Hn his friends, who in their tt 
told t^ some one who knew all about li 

But I fear I have allowed myself tc 
firom my sutgect, and said too .mod: 
.. There wrae.only two pnbUo ..baths ^ 
One was kept by a Jew, and had sej 
«hich cost 6&J copecks eadi* and was i 



the higher classea. The other bath was patronised 
by the poor people. It was very small, could only 
hold a few bathers at a time, and was remarkable 
for its dirt. We were taken there as a matter of 
course. It was a bright, sunny day, and the convicts 
were as happy as children at the idea of walking' 
through the town, and laughed and joked all the 
way. A whole battalion of soldiers with loaded 
guns accompanied us, much to the admiration of the 
lookers-on. When we got to the bath we were 
divided into two parties, as the room was too small to 
hold us all. One party went in first, while the rest 
waited in a small ante-room which opened into the 
bath-room and was very cold. Petr6flrcame up to me^ 
and volunteered his services in helping me to undress 
and wash myself. Another convict, Bakloushin, 
joined us, and asked to be allowed to help Petr6ff* 
He was a jolly, good-humoured fellow, and in the 
Special Department, and went by the name of the 
Pioneer. I had seen him once or twice before* 
Petr6ff even helped me to undress, as I was ra her 
long about it, not being yet accustomed to my chains^ 
and it was very cold in the little ante-room. I 
gave Pet^6ff a few coins to buy soap and a piece of 
bast ^ with. . We each had had a small piece of soap^ 
not bigger than a very thin slice of cheese, given us 
before starting. There was a kind of ^tall in the 
ante-room, where soap, sbiten,* kalatchi, and hot 

* A tissue made of strips of bast is much used in Russia for 
I ' senibbing floors, saucepans^ etd, and efen human bodies in the 

[?^*:^iX:i»^.. ' ■ bath.. " * . ... ^ . ':--^\ i ''''\^: •• ^''- '• ' ■'[ 

* A drink made of hot water and moJassea. ' ■ -r 









irater could be purchased. According to an arrange* 
meDt which had previously been made with the owner 
of the bath, each man was to have one can of hot 
water provided for him. Those who wanted more 
water might buy another canful for a mere trifle, the 
water being handed into the room through a small 
window which opened into the ante-room. Having 
at last succeeded in undressing me, Petroff insisted 
on my taking his arm, and led me carefully into the 
bath-room, remarking that I was not quite accus- 
tomed to walking in my chains yet. ^ You had better 
pull them over your calves,* said he, holding me by 
the hand^ as if I were a baby and he my nursemaid. 
^Take care, don't stumble over the threshold.' I 
oonfesB that I felt a little annoyed at being taken 
oare of in this way, and I hesitated whether I had 
not better tell Petroff that I was quite capable of 
taking care of myself, but he would not have believed 

When Petrdff opened the door of the bath-room 
at last, my first thought was that I must have got into 
hell by mistake. Into a room not more than twelve 
feet long, and as many broad, a crowd of human 
beings had been crowded. A thick cloud of vapour 
hung over the bathers, nearly envelaping them, and 
the floor was so filthy that I did not know where to 
set my foot, and would have turned back at once if 
PeMff had not ^acouraged me to go on, and piloted 
me to a bench across the heads of the people who 
were sitting on the floor. This was by no means an 
«asy undertaking, and we had repeatedly to ask 
them to make a little room for us. When at last we 




v.. V ^ 

>»• .. -• 

«-* •> * 


got to the wall where the bench was, we found that 
every available place on the forms had already been 
taken. Petr6ff explained to me that we must buy a 
place, and immediately entered into negotiation with 
a man who was sitting by the window, and who con- 
sented to let me have his place for a copeck. Petr6ff 
had prudently carried the coin in his fist all the way. 
He handed it over to the man, who immediately dis- 
appeared under the bench, just below my seat, where 
the mud was about two inches deep and it was quite 
dark. Even the space ander the benches was occu- 
pied ; the men squatted about on the floor washing 
themselves, while others who had been less fortunate 
in obtaining a place stood upright between them, 
the dirty water trickling down from their bodies on 
the cropped heads of those who sat below. The 
shelves were covered with convicts, who tried to ' 

screw themselves into the smallest possible space. 
Few, however, of the convicts really washed them- ^ ^ 
selves,, as the common people care but little for 
soap and hot water, their idea of a bath consisting in 
getting up to the highest shelf, whipping themselves 
violently with a bundle of birch twigs, and then 
pouring cold water down their backs. About fifty 
birch rods were in constant movement on the shelves, 
water was being continually thrown at the hot oven 
to make more steam, till the heat was almost unbear- 
able. And all this mass of human beings was sway- 
ing backwards and forwards, shouting and yelling^ 
and clanking their chains on the floor. Some, in-* 7^ t 
trying to cross the floor, were caught in the chains * 

of those who were sitting down, and falling on their ■ * 



heads, knocked them down, cursing and swearing- 
The dirt and filth actually flowed in streams every- 
where. The men were perfectly wild with excite- 
ment, and yelled and shrieked like demons. A dense 
crowd had collected round the window where the 
cans of hot water were handed in, and carried by th^ 
buyers to their respective places, not, however, with- 
out spilling half of it over the heads of the bathers 
who squatted on the floor. From time to time the 
moustached face of a soldier would look in at the 
door or window to see if there were no disorders 
going on. The closely-cropped pates and red-hot 
bodies of the convicts appeared to me more hideous 
than ever. Their backs were covered with scars from 
the lash or the stick, which stood out more vividly 
on the red sur&ce, and looked like so many fresh 
stripes. I could not help shuddering with horror at 
the sight of them« More water is being thrown over 
the hot stones, and a thick cloud of vapour rises from 
them and fills the whole bath-room, which resounds 
with maddening shrieks and howls. Here and there 
scanned backs, shaven heads, distorted hands and feet 
loom though the cloud, and over all this Bedlam soars 
the voice of Issai Fomitch, who has climbed on to the 
highest shelf. He is nearly beside himself with the 
heat and whipping, but it seems as if no earthly heat 
could ev^ satisfy him. He hires a man for a copeck 
to whip him, but the latter soon finds the heat too 
much for him, throws down the rod, and runs away 
to refresh himself with a cold shower-bath. Jssai 
Fomitch, nothing loth, hires another, then a third-^ 
he can be generous at times, and has as many as five 



men to whip bim txxiay, * Hurrah for Issiui Fomitch ! * 
shout the convicts from below. Issal Fomitch feels 
that at this moment he is high above everybody else, 
and can look down upon us, and triumphantly shrieks 
out his paean ^ la, la, la Mn a sharp, shrill voice like 
a madman's. It struck me that hell must be not 
at all unlike our bath-room, and I communicated my 
thought to Petr6flF, who merely looked around in 

I had intended to buy him a place next to me, 
but he sat down at my feet, assuring me that he was 
quite comfortable there. Bakloushin kept us pro> 
vided with hot water, which he bought and brought 
us whenever we required it. Petroff informed me 
that he was going to wash me himself, so that I 
might be ^ quite clean,' and tried to persuade me to 
let myself be whipped, which I refused to do. After 
scrubbing me all over with soap and water he re- 
marked, * And now I am going to wash your little 
feet.' I felt very much inclined to tell him that 
there was no earthly reason why I should not perform 
this operation myself, but did not choose to contra- 
dict him, and gave myself bodily up to him. There 
was nothing servile in the term *little feet.' I suppose 
Petroff only said so to distinguish them from those 
of other people who had large feet. After I had been 
well washed he conducted me back into the ante-room 
with as many precautions as if I had been a china doll, 
and having helped me to dress, he rushed back into 
the bath-room, and forthwith proceeded to whip him- 
self. When we got home I offered Petr6ff a cup of 
tea, which he gratefully accepted. The tea was fol- 

X 2 



lowed by a dram, which he swallowed wiih evident 
satisfaction, coughed, and, after remarking that I had 
completely revived him, hurried away into the kit- 
chen. Another guest succeeded him — ^Bakloushin, 
whom I had previously asked to come to tea. 

I have never known a better-tempered, more 
amusing fellow than Bakloushin. It is true that he 
was sometimes rather hard on others, and quarrelled 
frequently with his fellow-prisoners, especially if they 
wanted to meddle with his private affairs ; yet, as his 
anger never lasted long, he was a universal favourite, 
and his entrance was always hailed with great de- 
light. He may have been about thirty years old, 
was tall and lithe, with a good-natured, handsome 
&ce which was disfigured by a wart. He was a 
first-rate mimic, and would sometimes keep the whole 
cell in a roar for hours tc^ether by mimicking people 
whom he had met or seen ; and he was brimful of 
life and activity, always ready for a bit of fun. We 
became acquainted very soon after my arrival. He 
at once took care to inform me that he had been 
educated in a Government school for the sons of 
soldiers ; then served in the army as pioneer, and by 
his good behaviour attracted the notice of his supe- 
riors, and became quite a favourite with them. He 
was also of a literary turn, and very fond of books, 
and had hardly seen me once or twice before he began 
to question me about St. Petersburg. 

While he was drinking his tea he first made the 
whole company laugh by relating how Lieutenant 

Sh had snubbed our Major that very morning; 

then, drawing nearer to me, informed me with an air 




of great satisfaction that he hoped we would have 

private theatricals at Christinas. It appeared from 

what he said that it had for manj years past been 

the custom in the prison to get up something of 

that kind during the Christmas holidays. Some of 

the convicts volunteered their services as actors, while 

others prepared the decorations* Some charitable 

persons in the town had promised to lend the neces* 

sary costumes, and they even hoped to get an officer's 

uniform with epaulets from an officer's servant. He 

only feared that the Major might take it into his 

head to forbid the theatricals as he had done last 

year. But then he had been in a bad humour, having 

lost a good deal of money at cards, and something 

had gone wrong in the prison, and there was no 

reason why he should interfere this time. In a word, 

Bakloushin was very much excited about the private 

theatricab, and no wonder, seeing that he had exerted 

himself greatly about getting them up. I felt quite 

touched by his childlike joy, and promised myself 

that I would assist at the first representation. As 

we got more intimate, he told me in the course of 

our conversation that he had not served all the time 

in St. Petersburg, but had been sent to the garrison 

at R for some breach of discipline. ^ And then 

I came here,' he remarked quietly. 
« What for? 'asked I. 

^ Would you like to guess, Alexander Petr6vitch ? 
Because I was in love.' 

' Well, that is the first time that I have heard of 
i^*'*^ ^**^^.^ people being sent here for being in love,' retorted I, 





'Why, you see, Alexander Peti6vitoh,' oontanued 
he, ' the truth of the matter is that I shot a German 
dead at the same time. Though it does seem hard 
to send a fellow here for such a trifle/ 

* I should like to hear all about it,' said I. 

* It is a very funny story.' 

' I shall like it the better for being amusing.' 

* Would you really ? Very well, then, I will tell 

And he told me a strange, but by no means 
' fanny ' tale. 

*' You see,' hegau Bakloushin, < when I got to B 

I rather liked the town, for it is large and well-built, 
only there are a great many Germans settled there. 
I was a young fellow then, and quite a favourite with 
my superiors, and I thought I would have a good 

time in R . So I walked about with my cap on 

one side, winking at the German girls, and, would you 
believe it, one of them quite took my fancy I She\;. 
was living with an old aunt, a perfect dragon of a 
woman ; they were both clear-starchers by trade and 
made a deal of money. I began by parading up and 
down under her window, and at last we became very 
good friends. Louisa spoke Bussian very nicely 
indeed, with just the least lisp — and was the prettiest 
creature you ever saw. Well, at first I thought I 
might take a few liberties, you know, but she never 
would let me touch her, saying, ^^ No, S&sha,^ I want 
to remain innocent and pure, and make you a good 
little wife;* and then she would p^t me and tease 
me, and laugh so merrily. ; • • Yes, she was a good 

' AblveriadcMi of Alexander. 







^ench, and so clean ! She actually put it into my 
head to marry her ; and I had quite made up my 
mind to go to the colonel and ask his leave to many, 
when that very same day she did not come out to 
meet me as she had been wont to do. Two days 
.passed without my seeing her, and on the third day 
I wrote to her a letter. No answer came. I won- 
dered what could have happened. For, you see, if 
she had been playing false all the time, she would 
have come out to meet me, or answered my letter. 
I said to myself, '* That girl cannot lie ; it is all the 
old aunt's doing." You see, I was afraid of the old 
lady, and had never been to her bouse yet ; and we 
made believe that she knew nothing about oiu: love, 
though she did know all about it. I was quite wild 
with grief and anxiety, and at last wrote her another 
letter to say that if she did not come out to meet me 
at once I should go to her aunt's. She came, crying 
bitterly, and told me that a rich old German watch- 
maker, a distant relative of theirs, wanted her to 
marry him that he might have a wife to take care of 
him in his old age. He was going to make her very 
happy, and had intended to propose to her long ago, 
lout had always kept putting it off for some reason 
or other. "S&sha," said she, "he is rich, and I 
should be happy ; and I know you would not like to 
spoil my prospects in life ? " And she cried again, 
and put her arms round my neck quite lovingly. 
Well, I could not help thinking that after all she 
was perhaps right, as I was nothing but a subaltern 
•officer at the time. So I said to her, ^Farewell, 
Xouisa ; God bless you I I will not interfere with 


your happiness. But tell me one thing — is he hand- 
some ? " ^ No/' said she, ^ he is old, and has such a 
long nose;" and then she burst out laughing. I 
left her, and went my way, thinking, well, I suppose 
it is all for the best. The next morning I thought I 
would go and take a look at her German, and accord- 
ingly walked past his shop — she had told me the 
name of the street. I looked in at the window as he 
sat at his work*table making watches. He may have- 
been forty-five years old or so, and had a hooked 
nose and big staring eyes, and wore a coat with= 
swallow-tails and a stiff white eoUar, looking alto- 
gether very grand. I was just going to smash his 
window, but said to myself, ^ Let well alone. It is 
all over with me!^ It was night when I got back to 
the barracks. I threw myself on my bed, and, would 
you believe it, I cried bitterly. Several days passed^ 
during which I saw nothing of Louisa. At last an old 
washerwoman, whou'kneiK^the girl, told me that the 
German knew all about our love, and that that waa 
the reason why he had proposed so soon, else he would 
have waited two years longer. She added that he had 
made Louisa promise that she would never see me 
again, and that he kept both her and her aunt pretty 
strict, and they were afraid that he might change his 
mind, as nothing had been arranged definitively yet. 
She also told me that he had asked them both to 
breakfast on the day after to-morrow, which hap- 
pened to be a Sunday, and that he had also invited 
another relation, an old man who had formerly been ^: 
a meichant^ but had lost all his money and had 
got a sitoation somewhere as overseer. When I 



heard that perhaps everything was to be decided on 
Sunday, I felt so angry that I hardly knew whs^t to 
do with myself, and could think of nothing else for 
the next two days. I could have eaten that Grerman 
up alive, I hated him so. 

* Early on Sunday morning I had not yet made up 
my mind what I was going to do ; but after church^ 
I jumped up, put on my overcoat, and went straight 
to the German's house. I really cannot tell you why 
I went to him, or what I wanted to say to him, for 
I did not know myself. Anyhow, I just popped a 
pistol into my pocket.- It was an old-fashioned 
weapon — I had practised shooting with it when I was 
a boy — and so old that I did not believe that it would 
ever go off. However, I loaded it with a ball, think- 
ing that if the worst came to the worst, and they 
were rude to me or wanted to turn me out of doors, 
I would just take it out and frighten them. \\Tien 
I got there I found the shop empty and the whole 
party sitting in the back parlour. There was nobody 
else in the house ; a Grerman woman, who did the 
housework and cooked for him, was out, I believe. 
I walked into the shop, and then straight tb-the 
back parlour — the door was fast. It was an old door, 
and fastened on the inside with a hook. My heart 
beat faster as I stopped to listen to what they were 
saying; but I could not understand one blessed 
word, as they were talking Grerman. I just gave one 
hearty kick, and the door flew open. The table was 
set for breakfast ; a big coffee-pot was boiling over a 
spirit lamp, and there was a plate of rusks and a tray 
with a decanter of brandy, a herring and sausages. 


and a bottle of wine all ready on the table. Louisa 
and her aunt were sitting on the sofa dressed in 
their best clothes. The lover was sitting on a chair 
opposite, in his dress-coat and high collar, with 
another German sitting beside him — a fat, grey- 
haired old fellow, who never said a word. Louisa 
turned pale when I burst into the room ; her aunt 
started up, and sat down again; and the German 
looked deuced cross. He rose and said angrily 
to me: 

' " WbaX do you want here ? " 

^ I felt a little ashamed of myself at first, but my 
anger got the better of me, and I said : ^^ I have come 
to pay you a visit. Where are your manners ? Why 
don't you ask me what I will take ? " 

*The German thought a while, and then said, 
" Sit down/' 

* I sat down. ** Where is the liquor ? " says I. 

*"Here is some brandy," says he. "You may 
drink it if you like." 

***Why don't you give me better stuff than 
that ? " said I. — You see I was getting very angry. 

* " The liquor is very good," says he. 

^ I felt annoyed that he should treat me as if I 
were beneath him, especially as Louisa was looking 
on. So I swallowed my glass of spirits, and said, 

** Why are you so rude to me, you d d German ? 

You had better make friends with me. I have come 
for that purpose. I want to be your friend." 

* " I cannot be your friend," says he, " for you are 
only a common soldier.'" 

^ Then I could stand it no longer, and burst out. 


.*- — -."■•*• 


You scarecrow, you sausage-maker!^ Don't you 
know I have you in my power ? I can shoot you 
dead this very moment." And with this I whipped 
out my pistol, walked up to him, and held it close 
to his head. They all seemed half-dead with fear, 
and nobody said a word. The old gentleman had 
turned quite pale, and sat there trembling like a leaf. 

' My Grerman looked astonished at first, but soon 
regained his self-possession, and said, ^'I am not 
afraid of you. And I beg you to stop this joking if 
you are an honest man. I am not afraid of you I " 

* " That's a lie," says I. And sure enough he was 
perfectly white with fear, and never dared to move 
even his head away, but sat quite still. 

* " No," says he, " for you dare not kill me." 

' " Why not, pray ? " 

^ ^^ Because it is against the laws, and you will be 
severely punished if you do," says he. 

* Now if that fool of a German had only held his 
tongue he might be alive yet, but as it was he only 
made me more angry. 

* " Did you say," asked I, " that I dare not shoot 
you dead ? " 

' " No— o — o 1 " says he. 

' " Quite sure ? " 

' « Yes." 

* " Take that, then, you sausage I " And down he 
tumbled, and the women shrieked. 

^ I put the pistol back into my pocket and left the 

1 < 

'Saosage-xiiaker' is a nickname given by tl^e Unssians to the 
Oermans, probably because of their greai partiality for this artidis 
of food. 



house. When I got near our barracks, I threw 
it into the nettles by the gate, and then went in 
and lay down on my bed, expecting every moment 
to see them come in. and take me. But the day 
passed away, and no one came. Towards nightfall I 
felt as if I must see Louisa again. On my way ta 
her house I passed the watchmaker's shop — ^there 
was a laige crowd before the house, and a lot of 
policemen. I went straight to the old washerwoman 
and told her to call Louisa. She came running at 
once, put her arms round my neck, and began to 
cry, saying that it was all her doing, and that she 
ought not to have listened to her aunt. She then 
told me that the old lady had been taken ill with the 
fright and excitement, and never once mentioned what 
had happened, and had forbidden the girl to speak 
of it also. She was terribly afndd of getting mixed 
up in the affidr, and told Louisa they had better try 
and keep clear of it. Nobody knew that they had 
been there, as the workmen were out, and he had 
even sent his servant away for fear that she might 
find out that he wanted to marry Louisa. He had 
made the coffee himself, and got all the things ready. 
The old mercliant had never been known to say a 
word in his life, if he could help it, and after the 
murder he took his hat and went away. He was sure 
not to speak of it either, said Louisa. And so it 
happoied. For a whole fortnight nobody suspected 
me, and, would you believe it, Alexander Petrdvitch^ 
this was the happiest time of my life. Louisa and 
I met eveiy day, and she had grown so fond of me, 
poor thing, and would say to me, crying bitterly; 






**I will follow you wherever they send yoa; I will 
leave all and go with you ! " I did feel so sorry for 
her. But the aunt and the old gentleman did de- 
nounce me after all, and I was arrested a fortnight 
after ' 

^ But stop a moment,' said I, interrupting Bak* 
loushin. * Surely for your crime you could only have 
been sentenced to ten or twelve years' penal servitude 
in the Civil Department. And yet you are in the 
Special Department. How is this possible ? ' 

^ Ah, that's for something else,' said Bakloushin. 
* When I was called up before the court-martial my 
captain began to call me names. I could not stand 
that, and said to him, ^^ How dare you call me names ? 
Have you forgotten that you are standing before the 
mirror,* you blackguard ? " Then they had to begin it 
all over again, and I was sentenced to four thousand 
strokes, and to be sent to the Special Department. 
But I had the satisfiEiction to know that my captain 
and myself left the prison at the same time— I to 
walk down the green street,^ and he to be degraded 
to a common soldier, and sent to the Caucasus. 
Good-bye, Alexander Petr6vitch. Don't forget to 
come and see our play.' 

' The mirror (serzalo) is an emblem of the Imperial presence in 
every law-court. It is in shape like a prism, hollow in the middle, 
and Bormoimted by the imperial eagle. 

' Run the ganntlet. 






Thb long-expected aiid loDg-looked-forward-to day 
Inroke at last. Very little Mrork had been done on 
Christmas Eve, and such of the convicts as had been 
sent ont to work soon came back again, either alone 
or in groups, nor did any one leave the prison after 
dinner. In the morning several expeditions had 
been made to the town to make some necessary 
purchases for the feast, or to call on some old friends 
who might perhaps be induced to contribute a trifle 
towards the expmses, or to get.a few old bills cashed 
that had been standing outfor. some time. Bak- 
loushin and a few other amateur actors went to call on 
some officers' servants to try and borrow a few addi« 
tions towards the theatrical wardrobe. Some bustled 
about the prison or looked grave and pre-occupied 
only because others, who were really busy, looked so* 
Some who knew that they could not possibly expect 
any money tried to assume a certain lofty and self- 
satisfied air, as if they were expecting every moment 
to receive large sums. In short, everybody looked 
as if something unusual were going to happen the 
next day. Towards night the invalided soldiers who 

'••^ ^•«. * S,'"' 

i^>V- 'it-J^ 



had been commissioned by the convicts to make 
certain purchases in the town came back laden with 
eatables — beef, sucking-pigs, and even geese. Many 
of the convicts, even such as were of a saving dis- 
position, and never spent a copeck if they could help 
it, would have thought it very wrong indeed not to* 
eat an extra good meal on Christmas Day, which was 
the fsonvicts' holiday, as there were only three such 
days in the whole year. 

Who knows what memories may have been 
awakened in the hearts of the poor outcasts on such 
a day? A solemn stillness pervaded the prison, and 
if any one happened to disturb it even by chance he 
was immediately put down and scolded as if he had 
been guilty of some downright bad deed. There i» 
to me something touching in this peculiar attitude 
of the convicts towards a holiday. They had been 
taught from their childhood to respect it as a great 
and holy day, and they seemed instinctively to feel 
that by keeping up their veneration for it they still 
kept up a sort of connection with the world at large. 

Akim Akimytch had made great preparations for 
Christmas Day. There could hardly be any sweet 
memories connected with it in his soul, poor fellow, 
as he had lost his parents very early in life and had 
been left to the care of strangers till he was fifteen, 
when he entered the army. Neither was he of a 
particularly religious disposition ; there seemed to be 
no room left for religious feelings in his soul, for all 
his wishes, passions, and aspirations, if he ever had 
had any, had been swallowed up by his desire to be a 
thoroughly moral and well-behaved man. He had 


made all his preparations to spend the great day 
<iuietlj and peacefully, without any bustle or excite- 
ment ; and he was not a great thinker, never troubling 
himself about the meaning of a thing, but careful 
to obey his superiors. If he had been told to do 
•one thing one day, and the next day the contrary 
thing, he would have done so without demurring, and 
to all probability without even wondering why he 
should have been told to do two things which were 
diametrically opposed to each other. Once in his 
life he had acted according to his own judgment, and 
had never forgotten the result of his action. He had 
|iot enough common sense to see wherein he had been 
guilty, but he arrived at the conclusion that he never 
nnder any circumstances ought to judge for himself. 
The convicts used to say that his brain was not made 
for thinking. He had bought a sucking-pig, stuffed 
and roasted it with his own hands, because it was the 
custom to eat sucking-pig on Christmas Day ; he even 
had a sort of respectful feeling for the animal, as if 
it belonged to a peculiar species' which could only be 
eaten on holidays, and not a common pig which might 
be bought and roasted any day. Perhaps sucking-pig 
<Hi Christmas Days was one of the early associations 
of his boyhood, and he had concluded from that that 
it must form one of the necessary belongings of that 
day, and I am sure that if he had once omitted to 
bi^ a pig on that occasion, his conscience would have 
troubled him all the rest of his life. ' He had been 
wearing all the time his old suit of dotbes, which 
had begun to look woefully shabby notwithstanding 
the numecons dams and patches. We now found 

\. ^ 

* •--.. 


out to our surprise that he had had a new suit giveb 
him four months ago, but that he had carefully 
stowed it away in his box with the intention of 
wearing it for the first time on Christmas Day. On 
the preceding night he produced it from his box, 
spread it out on his pallet, examined it carefully, 
brushed it, and, having at last completed these pre- 
liminary ceremonies, finally tried it on. It fitted 
him to a nicety, and Akim Akimytch grinned with 
delight as he tried to catch a glimpse of himself in a 
very small bit of looking-glass which he had with his 
own hands framed and adorned with a gilt paper 
border. On more minute inspection it struck him, 
however, that one hook on the collar of his jacket 
was not in its right place, and no sooner had he dis- 
covered this important fact than Akim Akimjrtch 
resolved to alter it. This done, he tried the jacket 
on once more, and had the satisfaction of finding 
that it now fitted admirably well. He then divested 
himself of his new clothes, and put them back into 
the box all ready for next day. His head was suffi- 
ciently shaved, but a look in the glass convinced him 
that it was not smooth enough, as the hair was be- 
ginning to grow just a very little here and there, and 
he immediately betook himself to the 'Major' to 
have it cropped according to rules. Although he 
knew that nobody would examine him the next day 
to see if he were shaved and dressed, he strictly ful- 
^Ued all those smaU duties for the sake of his own 
conscience. Having done with himself, bo, being the 
seniot of the room, ordered a convict to/bring in some 
hay, and directed him how to strei/ it all over the 

N ■ / 




floor. It was the custom in the convict prison to put 
hay on the floor on Christmas ].^ f\ \\ l.i day's work 
being thus happily at an end. \k'n)' Akimytch said 
his prayers and lay down on his palkt, where he 
soon fell asleep. The others soon followed his ex- 
ample. There was no more work done that night, 
neither were there any card parties. The momiog 
dawned at last. Long before the first streak of light 
appeared in the East, the r6veUle was sounded, the 
doors were unlocked, and the sergeant-at>-arms came 
in to count the convicts. He wished us a merry 
Christmas, and all the men answered him civilly and 
even ccnrdially. Aklm Akimytch did not spend much 
time over his prayers that morning, but hurried off 
to the kitchen, together with several others, to see 
how their geese and pigs were getting on, and to 
superintend the important operation of roasting 
them. We could see from our snow* and ice-covered 
windows the blaze of the kitchen fire as it shone out 
against the dark winter morning. The convicts were 
running about the yard and rushing in and out of 
the kitchens. A very few had already paid the tap- 
ster a visit, but these were the most impatient ones. 
On the whole, they all conducted themselves with 
great propriety, and neith^ quarrelled nor swore. 

I went out into the courtyard. The day was dawn- 
ing in the sky, the stars were growing paler in the 
morning light, and a tnuispar»[it cold mist rose from 
the earth. Ckmds of smoke issued from the kitchen 
chimneys. A few convicts whom I happened to meet 
wished me cordially a meny Christmas. I thanked 
them and rediffocated the wish. One or two of them 




liad never exchanged a word with me before in the 
course of the whole month. I had just g^t to the 
kitdien door when a convict, with his fur coat thrown 
loosely over his shoulders, came running after me. 
He had caught sight of me suddenly, and called out, 
* Alexander Petr6vitch ! Alexander Petr6vitch 1 ' I 
stopped to wait for him. He was a young man^ with 
a round face and very kind soft eyes, and of a very 
silent and retiring disposition. He had never paid 
the least attention to me yet, and I did not even 
know his name. He rushed up to me, panting for 
breath, and stopped suddenly, staring at me with a 
broad grin on his face. 

^ What is it ? ' asked I, rather amazed at his pro- 
ceedings, and seeing that he was not going to speak 
after all. 

' Why, I thought, it is a holiday ^ mur- 
mured he; and suddenly discovering that he had 
nothing more to say, he left me abruptly and rushed 
into the kitchen. . Let me add here that we never 
spoke to each other again till I left the prison. 

A great crowd had collected round the kitchen 
fires. Nobody had eaten anything, as the Christmas 
fast could not properly be said to be over till the 
priest had said mass, when we might consider our- 
selves authorised to eat meat once more ; and every- 
body was keeping his appetite for this solenm occasion. 
It was hardly daylight when a peremptory call for the 
cooks resounded from the corporals, who were outside 
the prison gates. These calls were repeated almost 
every moment in th^ course of the next two hours, 
and their object was to summon the cooks from the 




kitchen to receive the contributions and presents 
which were sent to the prison from every comer of 
the town. They consisted chiefly of bread, rolls, 
cheesecakes, creamcakes, pancakes, shortbread, etc. ; 
and I believe that there was not a housewife in the 
town who had not sent a contribution to the prisoners 
in the convict prison. Every trifle, even the small- 
est roll, was gratefully accepted. The cooks took off 
their caps, and, bowing to the ground, wished the 
kind givers a merry Christmas, and carried the bread 
into the kitchen. When a sufficiently large heap had 
accumulated, the seniors of each cell were called to 
divide the bread among the convicts. This was done 
with the greatest possible equality and justice. The 
seniors carried the portion allotted for each room into 
their respective cells, and divided it among the men. 
Nobody grumbled at tiie portion he received, or even 
6o much as suspected the seniors of partiality. 

Having finished his work in the kitchen, Akim 
Akfmytch bethought himself that it might be time 
to dress for mass. He went through this ceremony 
with great solemnity and decency, taking care not to 
leave a hook or a button unfastened, and then knelt 
down to say his prayers properly. Several of the 
other convicts were already on their knees saying 
theirs ; they were mostly old men, as the young fel- 
lows cared little for prayer, and only crossed them- 
selves in the morning when they got up. After he 
had finished his devotions, Akim Akfmytch approached 
me, with a very dignified mien, to wish me a meny 
Christmas. I at once invited him to tea, and be 
asked me to share his pig. Then Petrdff came in to 





Elfish me joy ; he had evidently been paying sundry 
Tisits to the tapster this morning, for he ran up to 
«ne quite out of breath, and after staring at me for 
some time, with an expectant wistful look on his fieLce, 
murmured something, and betook himself to the 

Meanwhile, great preparations had been made for 
the reception of the Pope in the cell where the mili- 
tary prisoners lived. It was furnished differently 
from ours, the pallets being placed along the walls so 
' as to form a kind of settee, instead of occupying the 
centre of the room, as was the case in our celL I 
suppose it had been arranged thus with a view to 
assemble the convicts occasionally in it. A table, 
.covered with a white towel, was placed in the middle 
^f the room, and on it a burning lamp and the image 
i of a saint. The Pope came at last, carrying the 

Cross and the holy water. He said mass before the 
little table, then, turning towards the convicts, held 
out tiie Cross to be kissed ; this they all did with 
great respect. He then went through our cells, and 
sprinkled them with holy water. He also honoured 
I the kitchen with a visit, and praised our bread — ^which 
was famous in the town for its sweet taste — upon 
which the convicts, to express their gratitude, begged 
leave to present him with two new loaves which had 
just come out of the oven, and immediately des- 
patched an' invalided soldier to his house with the 
loaves. The convicts followed the Gross, and accom- 
, . panied it to the gates with great respect. Our next 

^.y '-* -s /v„ visitors were our Major and the Commandant. The 

latter was very much loved and respected by the con- 



▼icts. Both went over the whole prison, wished us w 
merry Christmas, and the Commandant even tasted 
our shtshi in the kitchen. It happened to be very 
good that day, as there was a great deal of meat in it, 
perhaps as much as a pound a head. We also had 
millet-kasha,' with plenty of butter. The Major 
showed the Commandant out, and then returned 
to bid us to sit down to our dinner. He happened 
to look particularly wicked that day, and the con- 
victs tried to get out of his way for fear that he 
might suddenly pounce upon tliem and spoil their 

We sat doM-n to dinner. Akim Akimytch's suck- 
ing.pig was excellent. And now a strange thing 
/happened — so long as the Major was in the prison 
/ everybody was as sober as sober could be, but hardly 
; had the gates shut upon him when one half of the 
Vjoonvicts appeared to be more or less drunk. There 
were many joyous rubicund fitces among the crowd ; 
and the sound of the balaliukas^ was heard at inter- 
vals. The Pole with his fiddle had already been hired 
ij some reveller for the whole day, and was following 
his pat»>n fiddling merry dances. The conversation 
became more lood and animated as the dinner drew 
towards its end, but no serious disturbances occurred. 
As soon as the meal was over, the elder and more 
sensible of the lot repaired to their pallets to take a 
nap. Hieir good example was followed by Akim 

of thick 

whieh eta be prepared oT 

diftfent gniiM. It it eeten with batter or milk, or cream and 

' A Mrt of gsitar with three •tiinga. 

'^*f ■-'...i*^^:.*,,^X 


Akfmytch, who probably thought it his diiJty to take 
an afternoon nap on a great holiday. The old Ran- 
kdlnik also lay down for a little while, but soon rose and 
climbed upon the stove with bis book, and read and 
prayed there till the small hours of the night. He 
said that it pained him to see the ^ shameful rioting,' 
as he termed it. The Tcherkesses had sat down in a 
heap on the steps, and watched the drunken men with 
curiosity, and perhaps not without a slight feeling of 
disgust. I met Nourra, who shook his head with an 
expression of pious horror, saying, * Won't Allah be 
angry at this I ' Issai Fomitch lighted a candle in 
his comer with great self-complacency and began to 
work, to show how little he cared for our holiday. A 
few maidens were going on in the comers, as nobody 
feared the invalided soldiers who lived in our cells ; 
and if the sergeant-at-arms should come in unex- 
pectedly he was sure to pretend not to see what 
was going on ; besides, spies had been placed at the 
door to give the alarm in case he should come. He 
did look in two or three times in the coarse of the 
day, but as the alarm had been given in time the 
drunken men hid themselves, the cards vanished, and 
he pretended not to see the smaller disturbances — 
as, for instance, a tipsy man reeling about the room. 
Gradually the men began to get more drunk and 
quarrelsome ; and those that were still sober found it 
hard work to watch over them and keep them com- 

^ paratively quiet. This was a great day for Gr&sin, 

who walked triumphantly up and down before his 

>^^^5^4^ ' place on the pallets, under which he kept a plentiful 

\' atrpply of spirit bottles, which he had managed to 



hide in the snow behind the prison till it was time 
to bring them in. He seemed very much pleased, 
and chuckled quietly as the crowd of purchasers in- 
creased round his pallet. He was perfectly sober 
himself, not having touched a drop of liquor that 
day, as it was his intention to carouse when the holi- 
days were over, after having previously plundered the 
convicts. Here and there in the rooms singing and 
mnsic were heard ; but the singers had been drinking 
too much, and their songs sounded like wails. Some 
strutted about with their own balalaikas, and their 
fur coats thrown over their shoulders, nmning their 
fingers along the strings. Eight members of the 
Special Department had formed themselves into a 
choir, and sang beautifully to the accompaniment of 
guitars and balalaikas. A few national airs were 
sung, but the majority preferred singing so-called 
* convict songs,' some of which were exceedingly sad, 
while others were evidently meant for comic songs. 
I remember one of the former kind ; it was sung to a 
beautiful tune, and had probably been composed by 
some poor exile. I can only call to memory the first 
two couplets. It hegxa thus : — 

When will m j eye behold the land 

Where I was bom ? 
To suffer daily without guilt 

Is DOW m J late. 

This song was a favourite with the men, and I 
have often heard it since. Sometimes, in the quiet 
evening time, a poor fellow would steal out of the cell 
and go and sit down on the steps outside, lean his head 
on his hand pensively, and strike up the tune in a 

Ifl*. .•^AVji,*,. ^ 



bigh falsetto voice. It seemed as if one's heart 
•would break to hear him sing it. There were some 
fine voices amongst the men. Meanwhile it had 
been growing dark. There was an under-current of 
sadness and despair in all the mirth and drunken 
revelry. All had looked forward to spending that 
long-expected day merrily and happily, and what a 
terribly sad and dreary day it had turned out after 
vail I It seemed as if they all had been bitterly dis- 
appointed in some cherished hope, they looked so sad 
and wretched. Petroff ran in to see me twice in the 
course of the day ; he, too, seemed to have been ex- 
pecting that something would happen at last — I do 
not think he himself knew what it was to be. But 
there was in his eyes a wistful look which spoke too 
plainly of his innermost feelings. He was nearly 
fiober, having drunk very little that day, and kept 
rushing in and out of the barracks as if in search 
of something. But he found only drunken men 
swaggering about, hiccoughing and swearing, Sir6t- 
kin also wandered restlessly about in a new red shirt, 
looking as handsome as ever, but with the same 
expectant look on his face. Towards nightMl the 
prison became a perfect Pandemonium. True, there 
was no lack of ludicrous incidents, but even these 
failed to amuse me. In one comer two convicts were 
having a serious discussion as to which of them was 
to stand treat. It had been going on for some time, 
and threatened to develop into a fight. One of 
them seemed to owe the other a special grudge, as 
iTas evident from his trying to prove, in a very shaky 
voice, that he had been shamefully treated by his 



friend last year, about Easter-time, when he sold a fur 
coat and kept part of the money back. Somethings 
else had also happened about that time, but he was 
not quite sure what it had been. The accuser was a 
tall, strong fellow, by no means stupid, with a marked 
tendency to forming sudden friendships and pouring 
out his grief when drunk. He had evidently begun 
the quarrel with the intention of making friends with 
his adversary as soon as it was over. The latter was 
short and stout, with a round face, very shrewd and 
clever. He had probably been imbibing more than 
his comrade, thou^ the effects of the liquor hardly 
showed themselves yet. He had the reputation of 
being very rich, and of having a strong will of his 
own. He led his friend towards the tapster, while 
the other kept repeating, in a loud voice, that he 
must treat him to a glass of liquor, ^ if you are an 
honest man.' 

The tapster pours out a glass of liquor and hands 
it to him. There is the slightest shade of scorn in 
his behaviour towards the demonstrative friend who 
does not pay for his liquor, and a great deal of respect 
towards the other one who pays. 

* Indeed, Stepka, it is your duty,' says the expan- 
sive friend, seeing that the victory is on his side ; 
'you owe me that.' 

* Oh, Fm not going to waste my breath arguing 
with youy' says Stepka. 

^No, Stepka, that's a lie now,' repeats the firsts 
taking the cup from the tapster ; * you owe me monej^ 
yoQ know that, don't you now ? But you have no 
conscience, and your eyes are not your own, you 



I • - i — 1. 


have borrowed them somewhere. You are a scoundrel^ 
Stepka, mark my words.' 

' Look out, you are spilling all the liquor 1 If 
people are good enough to treat you, you had better 
drink quickly. I can't stand waiting here till to- 
morrow morning,' shouts the tapster. 

' I'm drinking as fast as I can — ^you needn't yell 
at me like that. I wish you a merry Christmas, 
Stepan Dorofeitch,' added he politely, turning with 
a slight bow to Stepka, whom he had called a 
scoundrel only a few minutes ago. * May you live a 
hundred years, without counting those you have lived 
already.' He tossed ofiF the liquor, coughed, cleared 
his throat, and wiped his mouth. * There was a 
time, my brothers, when I could drink a good deal 
more than I can now,' added he gravely, addressing 
the bystanders in general and nobody in particular, 
*but I fear I am getting old now. Thank you, 
Stepan Dorofeitch.' 

* Don't mention it, pray.' 

* Well, Stepka, I will thank you for it all the 
same. But let me tell you also that you are a great 
rascal, you ' 

* Let me tell you something, you drunken ass,' 
interrupts Stepka, who has lost all patience. * Listen, 
and mind every word I say to you. The world is 
large enough for us both — you take one half and I 
will take the other, and never let me see your fece 
again. I am tired of seeing you.' 

* I want my money.' 

' What money do you want, you drunken idiot ?' 

* All right. In the next world you will come and 



ask me to take it back, aad I won't take it then. 
We have to work hard enough to earn it — ^there is 
sweat on that money which you keep from me. But, 
I teli you, my pjatak' will bring trouble on your 
head in the next world.' 
'Goto the devil!' 

* You need not hurry me, I am going fisist enough! ' 

* Get along with you.' 

And they quarrel again more violently than ever. 

Two friends are sitting side by side on a pallet. 
-One of them is a tall, strong-built man, with a red 
&ce, not unlike a butcher in appearance. He is 
nearly crying, something must have affected him 
very much. His friend is a thin, miserable-looking 
individual, with a long nose and small eyes, like a 
pig's, which he keeps permanently fixed on the 
ground. He is an educated man, has been a clerk 
formerly, and patronises his friend, to the latter's 
secret annoyance. 

^ He has dared to do it,' shouts the stout friend. 
He has put his left hand on the clerk's head, and 
keeps shaking it with all his might. ' Dared to do 
it ' means that he has been struck. The butcher- 
like looking friend, who has formerly served in the 
army, is secretly jealous of the superior education 
which his pale, haggard friend has received, and 
they vie with each other in elegant and refined 

* I tell you, you are wrong,' gravely begins the 
derk, still keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. 

* He has dared to do it — don't you hear ? ' inter- 

* Fiye copecks. 



. I 


rupts the other, shaking his beloved friend's head 
with greater energy than before. * I have nobody 
left in the world except you — don't you hear ? And 
I tell you, and you alone, that he has dared to ' 

* Let me tell you, my dear friend, that your stupid 
justification only brings shame on your head,' politely 
replies the clerk in a low voice. ' You must confess, 
my dear friend, that all this drunkenness is caused 
by your own inconsistency.' 

The stout friend &lls back a little, stares at the 
little clerk, who is delighted with his eloquence, and 
suddenly hits him a blow in the face with his huge 
fist. This puts an end to their friendship for the 
rest of the day, as the dear friend tumbles down 
under the pallet. 

A friend of mine who is in the Special Depart- 
ment comes in. He is very plain-looking, but a good- 
humoured jolly fellow who likes a bit of fun. It is 
the same convict who, on my first day in prison, in- 
quired in the kitchen where the rich man lived, told 
us that he was proud, and drank tea with me. 

He was about forty years old, and had a very 
thick under-lip and a big nose covered with warts. 
In his hands he held a balalaika, and from time to 
time passed his fingers along the cords. At his heels 
followed a very short convict with a remarkably large 
head, whom I hardly knew at all, and to whom no- 
body ever paid the slightest attention. He was 
working in the tailoring department* To-day, being 
drunk, he had taken a violent fancy to VarUmoff, 
fr'^'f^'t'-.^i and followed him like his shadow in a state of ter- 

rible excitement, gesticulating like a maniac, hitting 




cot right and left and striking the walls and benches 
with his fists, and very nearly crying. Varlimoff 
pretended not to see him. It is a curious fact that 
until that day both men had kept aloof from each 
other, as they had nothing in common. They worked 
in different shops, belonged to different departments, 
and lived in different prisons. The little convict's 
name was Boulkin. Varl&moff grinned vrith pleasure 
when he beheld me sitting on my pallet by the stove. 
He stopped short, drew himself up, and staggered 
towards me, trying to assume a dignified and graceful 
gait. When he could go no further, he stopped in 
front of me, and running his fingers along the chords, 
sang, or rather recited, the following verses, slightly 
tapping the floor with his heel : 

Mj lore s face b round, my lore's face ie white, 
And the sings like a nightingale in the dark night. 

This innocent song produced rather a remarkable 
effect on Boulkin. He tossed up his arms and 
screamed at the top of his voice, addressing us: 
* That's a lie, my brothers. Don't believe him ever, 
he never speaks the truth — ^never, never.' 

* Allow me, old gentleman, Alexander Petr<S- 
vitch,' said Varl^moff, looking at me with a 
cunning smile and coming so near that I began to 
entertain serious fears lest he should take it into his 
head to embrace me. He was quite drunk. The 
expression, * Allow me, 6ld gentleman ' — ^i.e. to pre- 
sent my respects to you — is frequently used by the 
ooomKMi people in Siberia. * Old gentleman ' is a 
term of affection, sometimes even of flattery. 
* Well, VarUmoff, how do you do ? * 




* Oh, 80, 80. • Excuse me, but I could not help 
getting drunk ; it is a holiday, you know.' 

He always spoke in a sing-song tone. 

* It's a lie, it's a lie I ' shouted Boulkin in a 
perfect agony of despair, thumping on the pallets 
with his fists. But the other one seemed to have 
made up his mind not to heed him. There was 
something irresistibly comical about the whole thing, 
as Boulkin liad attached himself to Varldmoff ever 
since the morning, apparently from no other reason 
except that Varl&moff told lies as he seemed to think. 
One might have thought from his behaviour that he 
was to be held answerable for all VarldmofiTs short- 
comings and faults. And all the time the other one 
never looked at him once. 

* It's a lie, a lie, a lie ! It's a lie, every word of 
it ! ' screamed Boulkin. 

* What's that to you?' answered the convicts, 

* I must tell you, Alexander Petr6vitch, that I 
was a very handsome fellow when I was young, and 
all the girls went clean out of their senses about me,' 
suddenly burst out VarlAmoff. 

< It's a lie, a lie I ' interrupted Boulkin, with a 

The convicts laughed at his despair. 

' And didn't I show off before them. I used to 
wear a red shirt and velveteen sharovary,^ and lie 
on the sofa like a gentleman, and drink like a 

' Wide troiuen, in shape not nnlike Torldsh tiooflara. They an 
tram with top-boots. 



^ It's a lie ! ' remarked Boulkin, in a very decided 

^ You see, at that time my father had just died, 
and left me a stone house with two storeys. Well, 
in two years I got rid of both of them, and had 
nothing left except the gates, without any posts to 
hang them on to. Money is like pigeons, and 
comes and goes like them.' 

* It is a lie I ' says Boulkin, in a more decided tone 
than before. 

* Then I thought I would write a dutiful and 
repentant letter to my friends from here, hoping that 
they might send me some money. You see they 
always accused me of being a disrespectful son, and 
not obeying my father. It is now seven years since 
I sent that letter off.' 

* And you never got an answer ? ' asked I, laughing. 

* No,' said he, suddenly bursting into a fit of 
laughter, and nearly touching my face with his nose. 
< Did you know, Alexander Petrovitch, that I had a 
sweetheart here ? ' 

* You ? A sweetheart ? ' 

^ Yes. Onoufrieff was saying the other day that, 
although his sweetheart was plain, yet she had fine 
dresses, while mine was handsome, but a beggar.' 

* Is that true?' 

^ Yes, yes, she is a beggar ! ' replied he, roaring 
with laughter. 

It was well known in the prison that he had a 
liaison with a b^gar woman, and had only given her 
ten copecks in six months. 


■ • » .\^ < 



* Do you want anything,' said I, wishing to get 
rid of him at last. 

He was silent for a moment, then, looking pite* 
ously at me, he said coaxingly, * Won't you give me a 
trifle to diink your health, Alexander Petrovitch ? I 
have tasted nothing hut tea to-day,' added he, with 
great eflFusion, pocketing the money, * and I had sa 
much of it that it made me feel quite sick and faint/ 

During this last scene, Boulkin's despair seemed 
to have reached its climax. He gesticulated madly, 
and nearly burst into tears. 

*Good people,' screamed he, addressing the 
whole room in his agony, ' look at him. It is a lie 1 
Every single word that he has spoken to-day has 
been a lie, a lie, a lie ! ' 

* But what is that to you, you old fool ? ' shout 
the convicts, who cannot understand why he should 
be so much distressed at Varl^mofifs lies.' 

* He must not tell lies ! ' shrieks Boulkin, hi» 
eyes sparkling with anger, and drumming on the 
pallets with all his might. * I will not let him tell 

They all laughed at him. Varlamoff takes the 
money, thanks me, and, writhing his uncouth body 
into all kinds of grotesque contortions, hastens away 
to the tapster. Suddenly he seems to become aware, 
for the first time, of Boulkin's presence. 

* Come with me,' says he, stopping on the thres- 
hold as if he really needed him. 

' Little knob,' adds he scornfully, stepping back 
to let poor little sorrowful Boulkin go past him, and 




I * 

again ruDB his fiDgera along the chords. of his instru- 

But why should I go on describing this Pan- 
demonium ? At last the day has come to an end. 
The convicts have fallen asleep on their pallets, but 
they talk more in their sleep to-day than usual. A 
few card^parties are still going on in the comers. 
The long-expected holiday is over, and we go back 
to our work-day life to-morrow. 





The first dramatic performance took place on the 
night of December 27. The actors had, undoubtedly, 
had a good deal of trouble in getting everything ready; 
but, as they had taken it all upon themselves and 
kept their own secret, we were quite in the dark as 
to how they were getting on, what they were doing, 
and even what the play was going to be. The greater 
part of the working hours during the last three days 
had been spent in more or less successful attempts to 
beg or borrow the necessary articles of clothing. 
Bakloushin expressed his satisfaction with the present 
state of things by snapping his fingers every time he 
met me. Even our Major was in a more peaceful 
frame of mind than he had been for some time past ; 
and it was a source of deep speculation for us whether 
he knew anything about our dramatic performance, 
and what he was going to do about it. Had the 
actors applied to him formally for leave, and had he 
granted it ? or was there a kind of tacit compromise 
between him and the convicts that he would not in- 
terfere with their plans, provided no breach of disci- 
pline was conmiitted? I, for one, am inclined to 

o 2 



think that fnich was the case, as indeed he could not 
possibly have been ignorant of the preparations; 
but that he preferred to remain passive, knowing 
from experience that if he had prohibited it the con- 
victs might do something worse. Anyhow, the ser- 
geant*at-arms did not interfere with the preliminary 
arrangements, and that was all the men wanted. I 
must add here that they were so taken up with the 
grand event, and so grateful for its having been per- 
mitted, that not a single serious disturbance or robbery 
took place in the prison during the holidays. I have 
frequently seen a quarrel come to an end suddenly, 
and the parties that were concerned in it pacified by 
the simple remark that if the Major heard about it 
he would prohibit the performance. 

The stage could be put up and taken down in 
about a quarter of an hour. The performance did 
not last above an hour and a half, and, if anything 
had happened to prevent it at the last moment, 
everything might have been cleared away in a minute 
or two. The dresses were hidden away out of sight 
in the actors' boxes. But before I go into any fur- 
ther details about the stage arrangements, the cos- 
tumes, etc., I must say a few words about the pro- 

No playbill had originally been issued, but Bak- 
ioushin wrote one out on the third night of the play 
for the officers and the gentry who had honoured us 
with their presence on the first night. The latter 
consisted of the officer on duty, who generally made; 
bis appearance, and, the head engineer, who had come - 
once. It was confidently believed that the fame of 







•our private theatricals would spread far and wide, 
and even excite the curiosity of the town-people, 
who, alas, did not rejoice in a standing theatre. A 
vague rumour, it is true, had reached us once that 
there had been amateur theatricals in the town, but 
that was all we knew about it. The convicts were 
like children, glad and proud of the slightest success. 
* Who knows,' they would say to themselves and to 
each other, * who knows but the general and the 
other officers may hear about our performance and 
come and see it, and then they will see what the poor 
convicts can do. Our play is not like those vulgar 
soldiers' plays, with their stuffed dolls and swimming 
boats, and dancing bears and goats. We are real live 
actors, and we act plays that have been written for 
gentlefolks, and that's more than they have in their 
town. They say that a play was once acted at 
Genetal AbrossimofTs, and that there is going to be 
another performance there. To be sure, their dresses 
will be better than ours ; but as for their talk, it won't 
be a bit better. And perhaps the Grovemor of the town 
may hear about it, and wish to come and see our 
play.' In a word, the imagination of the convicts be^ 
came so inflamed with their first success that they 
almost began to expect that they would be rewarded 
for their wonderful performance, and perhaps even 
obtain their liberty. At the same time, they were 
fully aware of the incongruity of their hopes, and 
laughed at each other for indulging in them. They 
w ere childr en yet in every r^apect^ alt][ioiigh some of 
these childr en were ov er forty years old. In spite of 
thelSick of playbills 1 knew wnat plays were going to 


bi;ki£d auve. 

be acted* The first piece was called ' The Rivals ;: 
or, FiUtka and Meroshka.' Bakloushin took care ta 
infonn me, a week before the performance, that he 
had taken the part of Filatka, and that he was going 
to favour us with such a rendering of the character 
as had never been seen even in St. Petersburg. He 
strutted about the prison, talking about himself and 
his accomplishments, in the most bare-faced, and,. 
at the same time, good-humoured manner, and occa- 
sionallj spouting some favourite passage from his 
part, which never failed to throw his audience into 
convulsions of laughter, whether it was comical or 
not. Still, the majority of the convicts thought it 
beneath their dignity to appear too much interested 
in the performance, and maintained a cert.ain reserve 
on the subject; and only those among them whose 
authority was too well established to be shaken by a 
violation of prison etiquette, and a few of the youngest 
and greenest fellows, dared to show their delight 
at Bakloushin's dramatic outbursts and wonderful 
tales about the play. On the eve of the first repre- 
sentation, however, even those who had pretended 
to care least about it suddenly manifested a most 
lively interest in the performance. Bakloushin 
assured me that the cast of the play was an un- 
usually good one, and that we were even going to- 
have a curtain! Sir6tkin was to be FiUtka's be- 
trothed; ^and you will see yourself how beautiful he 
looks in his woman's clothes/, added he, winking 
and wnacking his lips. ^ The rich and benevolent 
hdy has got a dress with flounces, and a cape and a 
paraaol; and the rich and benevolent gentleman 'Will 

- -n. 





appear in an officer's uniform with epaulets, and a 

The second piece was named ' Kedrii the Glut- 
ton.' The title roused my curiosity, and I tried, but 
in vain, to find out more about it. All I could learn 
about its origin was that it had not been taken from 
a book, but from a manuscript copy which was in the 
possession of an invalided sergeant, who lived some- 
where in the suburbs, and who had perhaps acted in it at 
some soldiei*s' private theatricals. There exist in our 
distant towns and provinces many plays and dramas 
which have never been printed and are perfectly un- 
known to the general public, although they form part 
of the repert(/ire of the popular theatres in certain 
parts of Kussia. They are to be found chiefly in the 
hands of soldiers and factory workers in certain 
manufacturing cities ; and perhaps even in many a 
poor little unknown town or village, or in the servant- 
halls of large country houses. I believe that many 
old dramatical pieces owe their existence merely to 
the fact of having been copied and recopied by 
servants. It was the custom in old times for rich 
people, both in Moscow and in the country, to have 
their own private theatres, where the actors were 
serfs. From those stages has sprung our popular 
dramatic art, and the traces of its origin are unmis- 
takable among our population. 

As I have said before, all I could learn about 
* Kedrii the Glutton ' was, that demons appear on the 
stage and escort the hero to helL The last piece 
was to be ^ A Pantomime, with Music^ 

The actors were about fifteen in number, a good- 



iooking^ set^ who kq)t a great deal together, and had 
private rehearsals in all sorts of queer out-of-the-way 
nooks and places. 

On week-days the doors were locked early, gene- 
cally at night&U; but during the Christmas^ holidays 
they had been allowed to remain open for a few hours 
longer. Eveiy day towards evening a deputation 
has waited on the officer on duty with the humble 
petition 'to peimit the performance and not to 
lock the doors too early/ adding that there had been 
a performance the night before, that the doors had 
been left open, and that no disturbances had taken 
place. Upon this I suppose that the officer reasoned 
thus : ^ After all they have kept their word hitherto 
and behaved well, and why should not they do so 
to-day. And if I forbid the performance, who knows 
but they may play me some nasty trick, and get us 
all into disgrace ? ' But the worthy officer had also 
another reason for granting their request. Watching 
convicts is by no means a very amusing occupation, 
and here was a chance of spending a pleasant even- 
ing, and seeing a real play acted, not by soldiers 
but by convict prisoners, who are queer people after 
alL And the officer on duty goes to the play with 
die rest of us. 

If a superior officer should come into the guard- 
FCk>m unexpectedly during his absence, and ask where 
be was, -he would be informed that the officer in 
questMA had gone into the cells' to call the roll and 

' QaoMtiuu liolidaji Uat for twelve days in Buflsia, beginning 
on Gbiiilmas Day and ending on Twelfth Niglit. Thej are called 
ihrSTTBtH <» 'Kttle holidays; 





lock the doors, which was true after aU. And our 
request was graciously granted, and tbe doors not 
locked till late. 

About 7 P.M. Petroff came to fetch me, and we 
started to go. There was hardly a soul left in our 
•cell except the old Dissenter and the Poles. The 
latter could not be prevailed upon to come till the 
very last performance, which took place on January 4, 
and not until they had been repeatedly assured 
that the plays were amusing, and that they had 
nothing to fear. When at last they did come, the 
<;onvicts received them very politely, and showed 
them to the best places. The Tcherkesses and Issai 
Fomiteh were delighted. The latter had paid three 
copecks each time until the last, when he put ten 
copecks into the plate, and looked round with a &ce 
beaming with happiness. There were no fixed prices, 
but a collection was made each time to cover the 
expenses and provide refreshments for the actors. 
PetroflF told me that I would get one of the best 
places because I was known to have more money than 
the rest, and therefore expected to give a larger con- 
tribution, and also because I was rather a connoisseur 
in the histrionic art. Everjrthing happened as he 
had said ; but I must first describe the stage and the 
place where the public stood and sat. The stage had 
been erected in our military prison, which was fifteen 
feet long and had two doors — one opened- directly 
into a little passage, whence a. few steps led into the; 
<;ourtyard, the other door led into an adjoining room* 
!V*''* Vt>c^ Tlie middle of the room was empty, as the bencheer 

ran along the walls. That part of the room wbidi 




was nearest to the outer door had been allotted to 
the public, and the other part set apart for the stage. 
I was very much struck by the curtain first of all. 
It was about ten feet long, and stretched right across 
the room, and had been elaborately painted to re- 
present a conglomeration of trees, bowers, ponds, and 
stars. It had been manufactured partly of old linen 
lags, and partly of new bits of cloth, which had 
been contributed by, or begged from, the convicts* 
Old shirts and linen rags, which served in lieu of 
stoekings, had been sewn together to form one large 
sheet, and as this was still too small for the 
room, small bits of paper, which had also been 
begged from divers offices, had been added to make 
it larger. Our painters had done their best, and the 
effect was truly wonderful. Even the most fastidious 
men were delighted with it, and when it came to the 
play they went into ecstasies of rapture. The illu- 
mination consisted of several tallow candles, which 
had been cut in small pieces for the sake of economy. 
In front of the curtain, &cing it, stood two benches 
which had been borrowed from the kitchen for the 
occasion, and between them and the curtain three 
or four chairs had been placed in case any of the 
higher officen should come in. The benches were 
occupied by the sergeant, clerks, engineers, and other 
persons who belonged to the Governor's staff. We 
had a good many visitors — some night<s they were 
more nomerous and others less 4so — but on the last 
ni^t of the performance not a place remained un* 
occupied on the benches. The convicts were crowded ^ 
into tiie space between the benches and the wall» 


> ' 



bareheaded, out of respect for their visitors, and 
dressed in their jackets or fur coats, in spite of the 
stifling hot atmosphere. As there was not room 
enough for them to stand, they literally sat upon each 
other, especially in the back rows. . Some had climbed 
upon the pallets or squeezed in between the decora- 
tions, and others who had not been fortunate enough* 
to obtain even a small place in the room, were enjoy- 
ing the play from behind the stage. The crowd was 
terrific, and could only be compared to the one I had 
lately seen in the bathroom. The door which led 
into the passage was open, and even this was full of 
people, who stood there regardless of the cold. 

Petr6fif and myself were shown to the front, where 
we got a place just behind the benches, and could 
hear and see well. The reason why we were thus^ 
honoured was self-evident. They knew that I had 
frequented the theatres a good deal in my time;, 
besides, Bakloushin had frequently come to me for 
advice, and listened to my suggestions with defer- 
ence — therefore I deserved a good place. 

The room itself presented a curious sight. Several 
men had brought with them big logs of wood from the 
kitchen, which they leaned against the wi^ and^ 
perching themselves on the top, grasped with both 
hands the shoulders of some one in the row befom 
them to steady themselves, and remained in thi» 
position for two hours; Others had managed to get 
on to the narrow ridge which ran. along the stove 
and stood there. Another crowd occupied the 
pallets, which were considered first-rate sesAa. Five 
men had clambered upon the stove, and viewed the 



play from above. Many who had come too kte, or 
been unable to procure a good place, sat on the 
window-sills on the other side of the room. There 
was no rioting or quarrelling, the men were evi- 
dently anxious to show themselves to their best 
before the quality. 

At last something was heard moving on the stage, 
the curtain began to flap, and the band struck up. 
This band consisted of eight performers, who were 
seated on the pallets to the right of the stage — two 
of them played the violin (one fiddle had been bor- 
rowed from somebody in the fortress, the other be- 
longed to a convict prisoner), three the bahdailoi 
-(they had made their instruments themselves), two 
the guitar, and one rattled and jingled and thumped 
on a tambourine ; two harmonicas also took part in 
the performance. The fiddles screeched, the guitars 
were wretched, but the balalaikas were first-rate 
instruments I have never seen anything like the 
rapidity with which the fingers of the players flew 
along the strings. The overture was a national 
fiance. In certain places the balalsoka players struck 
with their knuckles the woodwork of their instru- 
ments. One of the guitar players played well — it was 
ihe parricide. To tell the truth, I had never yet had 
the fiiintest idea of what can be done with simple 
instruments, and was astonished at the execution and 
the spirit of the whole performance. 

At last the curtain rose. There was a general 
fifcir; the people in the back rows stood on tiptoe; 
Ame one tumbled down .from his log; all mouths 
were opened with expectation, all eyes fixed on the 



stage, the deepest silence prevailed, and the per* 
formance began. 

My immediate neighbour was AleL He, hi» 
brothers, and the other Tcherkesses all stood to- 
gether in a group. They grew to like the theatre 
very much, and ended by going nearly every night. 
I have often noticed how fond Mahomedans are of 
dramatic performances. On the floor by them 
squatted Issai Fomitch, who, from the moment the 
curtain rose, seemed to have lost all senses except 
tiiose of hearing and seeing, and to expect wonderful 
things. I should have been sorry for him if he had 
been disappointed. Alei'^s sweet face wore such an 
expression of pure childlike joy that it gave me 
pleasure to look at him. I remember that every 
time some particularly witty repartee was greeted 
with shouts of laughter from the pubb'c, I turned 
round to see how he liked it. But he never saw me I 
At this moment I doubt if he was aware of the very 
fact of my existence. On the left, not far from me, 
stood an old convict who had never been known ta 
smile in all the years he had been in the prison. 
He, too, noticed Alei, and I caught him repeatedly 
turning to look at himjrith the fedntest shadow of 
a smile flitting over his face. He used to call him 
* Alei Semenytch,' I know not why. The first piece 
was, as I have said, ^ Fil4tka and Merdshka.' Bak- 
loushin was indeed a first-rate actor. I had seen the 
piece several times, both in StPetersburgand Moscow;, 
but Baklousbin surpassed the VbestcMstors in botlb 
places in his rendering of !Fll&tka;r <: I was even more 
iamused in watching the public, whose enthusiasnoi 



knew no bounds. Poor fellows ! They had nothing 
to look forward to except long years of a life as 
monotonous as the dripping of the rain on a gloomy, 
^chilly autumn day, and to-night they had been 
allowed to forget their misery for a moment. They 
had shaken off for an hour or two the heavy stupor 
which paralysed their minds, and were once more 
fiee human beings, full of life and the enjoyment of 
it. One man nudged his neighbour to attract his 
attention, and without even looking at him, so com- 
pletely was he absorbed in what was going on. Another, 
in the midst of a comical scene, suddenly turned 
round and faced the crowd, as if to see whether it had 
dvAj appreciated the repartee, then, waving his hand, 
tamed back eagerly towards the stage. The costumes 
were a source of great interest. It was quite a new 
thing to see Vikn'ka Otp6tuy or Netzvet4eff or Bak- 
loushin in plain clothes. < He is a convict like us,' 
some one would suddenly remark about one of the 
actors; *yon can hear his chains clanking under his 
dothes, and just look at him now. Doesn't he look 
like a gentleirian in his dress-coat and cloak and 
round hat ? And he wears a &lse moustache and a 
wig, actually a wig ! And now, look I look ! he has 
taken a red pocket-handkerchief from his pocket and 
is fimning himself with it.' 

The ^benevolent gentleman' appeared on the 
stage dressed in a very old aide-de-camp uniform, 
with epaulets and a military-looking cap, and was 
greeted with tremendous applause. There had 1)een 
two candidates for that part, and they quarrelled just 
like boys, as both wished to appear in public in an 




oflScer's uniform with epaulets! The other actors 
had at last been obliged to interfere, and the dispute 
had been decided in fevour of Netzvet^eff, not be- 
cause he was better or more gentlemanly-looking than 
his colleague, but because he had promised to carry 
a stick in his hand and flourish it, and draw figures 
on the ground with it like a real gentleman. This 
part of the acting Vdn'ka Otp^tuy could not do, never 
having seen a real live gentleman in all his bom 
days. So when Netzvetaeff came out with his lady 
on his arm, he did little else but draw figures on the 
floor with a small walking-stick which he had bor- 
rowed from some one. I suppose that many years 
ago, when he was a ragged, barefooted boy who hung 
about his master's house, he may have seen a well- 
dressed gentleman flourishing a walking-stick, and 
been greatly impressed by the sight. He was so 
absorbed in drawing figures on the ground that he 
never once looked up, and all the time he was on 
the stage kept his eyes fixed on the end of the stick. 
The * benevolent lady' also presented a very re- 
markable and striking appearance. She was attired 
in an old draggled muslin gown, rather the worse 
for wear, and had a calico nightcap on her head 
which was tied under her chin. Her neck and arms 
were bare, her &ce painted pink and white, and she 
carried a parasol in one hand and a &n made of 
coloured paper in the other, with which she kept 
fanning herself with great vehemence. She was 
received with roars of laughter, which evidently upset. 
^'^"^y^"' her gravity, as she repeatedly went into .fits of 

laughter herself during the performance. She was 




lepresented by Ivanoff. Sir6tkiii looked charming^ 
in the character of a young girl. The couplets were 
well sung, and the whole piece went off to every- 
body's satis&ction. 

The overture was repeated in the interval be- 
tween the first and seoond piece, and the curtain rose 
again. The second piece, according to the pro- 
gramme, was *Kedril the Glutton.' Kedril re- 
minded me a little of Don Juan — that is, the last scene 
or two of it, when both the servant and the master are 
carried bodily off by devils. I suppose that the 
piece we saw was only a fragment of the original 
&rce, as it was impossible to make anything of it.. 
The scene is laid in a wretched roadside inn some- 
where in Bussia. In the opening scene a gentleman 
in a great-coat and battered round hat is shown into 
a room by the landlord. He is followed by hi^ 
servant Kedril, who appears carrying his master's 
portmanteau in one hand and a roast fowl wrapped 
up in brown paper in the other. He wears a short 
fur coat and laced cap, and is the hero of the piece. 
The landlord retires after considerately informing his 
guest that the room he has given him is haunted by 
evil spirits. The gentleman, who seems very much 
pre-occupied with his own thoughts, orders Kedril Uy 
unpack the portmanteau and get supper ready. The 
servant is a coward as well as a glutton, and, having 
heard that the room is haunted, h^ turns pale with^ 
&ar, tiembles like a leaf^ and even makes one or two . 
attempts to nm away, but is prevented fix>m earrying: 
dot his desire by the sight of the roast fowl and the 
fiar lest his master should catch, him in the act of 

' ■ - i. I 

r , V -. : • -. .- • .J- 

* V*- 

Jj rr?»-^- 



decamping. Wiile he is busy unpacking, his master 
paces the room in a state of great agitation, and 
informs the public that to-night his wanderings have 
reached an end at last. Kedril, who is squatting 
on the floor before the portmanteau, listens to his 
master's monologue, makes faces, and throws the 
audience into convulsions by his remarks. He does 
not in the least feel sorry for his master, but, having 
heard something about the devils, he would like to 
know more about them, and begins to ask questions 
on the subject. His master tells him finally that 
some time ago, being in great trouble, he had applied 
to the devil for help, and that the latter came to his 
rescue after making him agree to the usual condi- 
tions. His term had expired to-day, and this very 
night the devil might possibly come for his soul. On 
hearing this Kedril is frightened nearly out of his 
wits ; but his master remains calm and self-possessed, 
and commands him to get the supper ready. The 
word * supper ' has a wonderful effect on Kedril ; he 
takes the fowl out of the brown paper parcel and 
produces a bottle of wine from the portmanteau, but 
cannot resist the temptation to take a little bite out 
of the fowl. The public screams with laughter. 
Suddenly the door begins to creak, the shutters 
swing to and fro in the wind, Kedril trembles with 
fear, and almost mechanically puts into his mouth a 
huge piece of fowl which is too big for him to swallow. 
Another burst of laughter greets this marvellous 
feat. ^ Is supper ready ? ' asks his master, stopping 
short in his perambulations. 'Yes, sir — ^I — am 
just getting it ready,' says Kedril, sitting down at 


bLiatJD ALU'i:. 

the table and helping himself coolly to the fowl, thus 
making a fool of his master, to the infinite delight 
of the audience. He goes on eating greedily, keep- 
ing all the time an eye on his master, and every time 
the latter turns round he takes the fowl in his hand 
and hides himself under the table. Having at last 
satisfied his own stomach, he begins to think of his 
master. * Kedril, when will supper be ready ? ' 
cries the master. ^ It is on the table, sir,' answers 
Kedril, and suddenly to his surprise becomes aware 
of the &ct that there is nothing left on the plate 
except one drumstick. Happily his master is too 
much pre-occupied to notice this little circumstance, 
and sits down to the table, while Kedril, throwing a 
napkin over his arm, takes his place behind his 
master's chair. Each word, each gesture of Kedril, 
as be winks at the audience, pointing to his master, 
evidently rejoicing over his trick, provoke the mirth 
of the audience. Xo sooner, however, lias the gentle- 
man begun to eat than the devils appear on the 
stage. A side-door opens and admits a white figure 
carrying a lantern on its shoulders iastead of a head. 
It is followed by a similar figure, also with a lantern 
on its shoulders and a scythe in its hand. Nobody 
expresses the slightest wonder at this unusual repre- 
sentation of evil spirits. The master bravely tells 
the demons that he is ready to follow them. Not 
so Kedril, who disappears under the table, taking the 
bottle of wine with him in his hurry. The devils 
disappear for a mcnnent, Kedril comes out of his 
hiding-place, and his master eats another mouthfiil 
of fowl, when he is again interrupted by three devils. 




vho suddenly burst into tbe room and carry him off 
to the lower regions, ^ Kedril, save me I oh, save 
me ! ' screams the unfortunate man, but the servant 
is deaf to his entreaties. This time he has taken- not 
only the bottle, but also the plate with him in his 
retreat under the table. When everything is quiet, 
he comes out of his hiding-place, looks cautiously 
round, and winks at the audience. Then, sitting 
down in his late master^s place, he says in a 
loud whisper, * My master's gone — I'm all alone 
now ! ' 

Everybody laughs because he says he is alone ; 
after a pause he adds in another whisper, winking 
at the audience with an expression of great bliss on 
his face, ^ The devil has taken him ! ' 

Here the audience's delight knows no bounds. 
Besides, these few words were so well spoken, with 
such a semi-sarcastic, semi-triumphant expression, 
that they fully deserved to be applauded. 

But Kedril's happiness does not last long. He has 
just poured some wine into his glass, and is in the 
act of raising it to his lips, when the evil spirits re- 
appear, and coming up softly lay hold of him from 
behind. Kedril screams with all his might and 
main, but is too much terrified to look round.. 
Neither can he defend himself, for both hands are 
occupied with the bottle and the glass, from which he 
cannot make up his mind to part. There he sits for 
about half a minute, staring at the public with hia 
mouth wide open, the very image of terrof. The 
piece ends by his being dragged away, clinging to his 
bottle to the last, screaming and kicking. His yells 

p 2 



are heard behind the scenes, the curtain drops, the 
audience is delighted, and the band strikes up the 

It begins pianissimo and very slowly, but gradually 
increasing, both in rapidity and loudness, and the 
audience are breathless with the excitement, I only 
wish Glinka might have heard it. The pantami/me 
begins, and the band plays all the time. The stage 
represents the interior of a cottage. In one comer 
sits the miller mending a piece of harness, in the 
other his wife spinning. Sirdtkin is the wife, Netz- 
vet^eff is the husband. I must observe here, once 
for aU, that our decorations were very primitive, 
and left a wide scope to one's imagination. Across 
the back of the stage a carpet or horse-rug had been 
hung, a wretched screen was all the decorations on 
the right-hand side, and there was even less on the 
left-hand side, seeing that there was no scenery at 
all, so that the pallets were visible. But the 
audience is unpretending, and quite willing to 
imagine anything they are told to imagine. If they 
say it is a garden, it is one, and if they say it is a 
room, why shouldn't it be so ? Sir6tkin looks a very 
pretty little woman. A few complimentary remarks 
are heard among the audience. The miller, having 
finished his mending, lays it down, takes up his hat 
and whip, and approaching his wife, gives her to 
understand, by pantomime, that he .is going out for 
a short time, but that if she should receive any one 

in his absoice 9 and he raises the whip with 

a significant gesture* - She nods her head, and is evi- 

' A natiomJ dmee. 





dendy well acquainted with the whip, as she is some- 
what given to flirting. The husband leaves the toom, 
and his wife shakes her fist at him behind his back. 
There is a knock at the door presently, and in walks 
a neighbour. He is also a miller, and wears a kaftan, 
and has a long beard. He carries a red kerchief in 
his hand, which he presents to the wife. She takes 
it laughingly, but, just as he is going to kiss her, there 
is another knock at the door. What is to be done ? 
After some deliberation she hides him under the 
table, and again betakes herself to her spinning. 
This time the visitor is a clerk, habited in some old 
regimentals. Hitherto the pantomime had gone on 
beautifully, every movement and gesture being per- 
fectly natural. I could not help admiring the actors, 
and thinking sadly how much talent is wasted and 
crushed and trodden down in Kussia. But, unfortu- 
nately, the convict who played the clerk had either 
acted before on some small stage in a provincial 
town, or else in private theatricals, and seemed to 
have somehow or other got hold of the idea that he 
alone had acquired the art of moving about on the 
stage, and that none of our actors knew anything 
about acting. Accordingly he stalked about the 
stage after the fashion of the heroes in old classical 
pieces, as they used to walk fifty years ago— taking 
a long stride, then, without moving the other foot, 
stopping suddenly with his legs wide apart, throwing 
his head and body back, glancing proudly round, and 
then at last taking another step forward and going 
through the same evolutions again. ' 

Hardly had he managed to get to the middle of 



the stage when another knock was heard at the door. 
What was to be done with the clerk ? Happily there 
stood in a comer an open box, into which he got pre- 
cipitately, the woman closing the lid. The third lover 
is a Bramin in full dress. The spectators explode 
with laughter. The Bramin is played by Koshkin, 
and very well too. He expresses his love by lifting 
his hands to heaven, and folding them over his 
heart, but only a short time is given him to express 
all he thinks. A thundering knock nearly shatters 
the door. It is the master of the house, who has 
come back. His wife is frightened out of her wits 
the Bramin rushes frantically about, trying to hide 
himself in all sorts of odd nooks and places. At last 
she pushes him behind a cupboard, and, forgetting in 
her terror to open the door, sits down to her spinning, 
drawing a thread which she does not hold in her 
hand, and turning the distaff which she has not 
picked up from the floor. After repeated knockings 
her husband finally bursts open the door with a 
furious kick, and walks straight up to his wife, 
threatening her with his whip. He has been watching 
her through the window, and tells her, by signs, that 
he knows how many lovers she has hidden in the 
room, after which he proceeds to himt for them. 
The neighbour is discovered first, and expelled by 
kicks. The frightened clerk tries to run away, raises 
the lid of the box with his head, and thus attracts 
the attention of the husband, who accelerates his 
departure by sundry applications of the whip, and the 
love^ck swain hops about the stage in a highly uh- 
classical manner. Now comes the Bramin's turn* 



— I 

• C^i.-* 


The infuriated huslmnd looks vainly in every corner 
of the room, till at last he discovers him Inehind the 
cupboard, when he bows politely to his unbidden 
guest and proceeds to drag him out by his beard. 
The Bramin struggles, trying to defend himself, 
screaming, * You wretch 1 you rascal 1 ' (the only 
words that were spoken in the pantomime), but the 
husband goes on pulling and pushing and kicking 
him in spite of his screams. Tlie wife, seeing that 
her turn has come, throws down her spinning and 
runs out of the room, to the delight of the audience. 
Alei shakes me frantically by the hand without 
looking at me, shouting, * Look, look, the Bramin, 
the Bramin ! ' and holds his sides with laughter. 
The curtain Mis and rises again, and another scene 

But why should I go on describing them all ? 
There were some three or four more, and they were 
all very amusing. I do not know if the convicts 
had arranged and invented all the pantomimes them- 
selves ; but, at any rate, each actor improvised some 
slight variations every time, so that on each of the 
.following nights the same part was given slightly 
altered, and perhaps improved. 

The last scene ended with a ballet. A funeral 
procession moves across the stage, and is met by a 
Bramin and his suite, who tries to revive the corpse 
by various exorcisms, but in vain. Suddenly the 
tune of the popular song, .^The Sun is setting,' is 
heard behind the scenes — the dead man sits up in his 
coffin, and all dance for joy. The Bramin and the 
corpse execute a Braminical pas de deux. 



This is the finale of to-night's performance. Every- 
body goes away in high good-humour, praising the 
actors and thanking the sergeant-at-arms, and very 
much pleased with their evening. Nobody feels in- 
clined to get up a quarrel to-night, and soon everybody 
is peacefully asleep on his pallet. I happen to wake up 
in the middle of the night. The old man is still praying 
on the stove, where he will remain till daybreak. Alei 
sleeps quietly by my side. As I gaze upon his sweet, 
childlike face, I remember how he joked about the 
play with his brothers before lying down on his hard 
bed. I rai^ my head and look at my sleeping 
comrades by the dim light of a thin candle. I see 
their poor, worn faces, their miserable beds, the 
squalor and wretchedness that surround them, and 
try to persuade myself that I am not dreaming a 
hideous dream. No, I am broad awake ; some one 
in the comer over there has groaned in his sleep, 
another has moved his hand — you hear the sound of 
chains ; a third sleeper has started up, and murmurs 
something, and the grandfather on the stove prays 
for ^ all orthodox Christians,' and I hear him 
repeating, in low, measured tones, ^ Lord Jesus Christ 
have mercy upon us ! ' 

* I shall only be here a few years after all,' thought 
I, laying my head once more on the pillow. 

ft:* ■''*i**i'»*. 


-i r^^u-* 



I FELL ill soon after the Christmas holidays, aud was 
taken to our military hospital. It was a long, one- 
storied building, painted yellow, which stood by itself 
half a verst from the prison, in the midst of a large 
courtyard, surrounded by the outhouses, and two or 
three cottages where the medical officers lived. The 
wards were aU in the principal building. There were 
several of them, but only two were allotted to the con- 
victs, and were consequently much crowded, especially 
in summer-time when temporary beds had often to be 
erected and squeezed in somehow or other between the 
others. A great number of our patients were military 
prisoners who were awaiting their trial, and soldiers 
from the so-called reformatory battalion — a curious 
institution, where soldiers whose behaviour has been 
unsatisfactory, or who have committed some trifling, 
breach of discipline, are sent for two years or more, 
and which they leave as professed criminals. A con- 
vict who wished to be admitted into the hospital re- 
ported himself in the morning to the sergeant-at-arms, 
who put down his name in a book, and sent him witb 
the book and accompanied by an escort to the Field- 



' t 

lazaretto, where the men who have applied to see the 
doctor are examined by him, and^ if they are really 
ill, have their names put down on the hospital list. 

I went to the hospital about 2 p.m., when all 
the other convicts had gone to their afternoon work. 
The patient generally took with him all the ready 
money he had, a large piece of bread — ^as neither 
dinner nor supper is provided for him on the day of 
his entering the hospital — a small pipe, a tobacco- 
pouch and tinder-box, the latter articles being care- 
fully hidden away in his boots. 

I must confess that I entered the hospital-yard 
not without a certain feeling of curiosity, as this 
side of convict life was practically unknown to me. 

The day was warm and dull — one of those days 
when a building like a hospital is apt to appear 
more dreary and official-looking than usual. We 
walked into a kind of reception-room, where two 
other convicts were already waiting with their 
escorts. On one side of the room stood two tin 
baths. After some time had elapsed the feldsheer' 
made his appearance at last, stared at us haughtily, 
and then went off lazily to report us to the doctor. 
The latter came at once, examined us carefully, and, 
after saying a few kind words to each of us, gave us 
each a ticket on which our name was inscribed. All 
the further particulars — ^viz., the diagnosis, medical 
treatment, and dietary were left to the assistant who 

* A Mffeoii vlio peilbnM the mon menial oflLeea, bleeds and 
the |ntiflnt% etc Hum are apeeial aehooU in Buasia where 
the feldaheen an trained. Thej hare a diploma, but do medical 



^was in charge of the convict wards. I knew from 
what I had heard before that the convicts likdd their 
doctors. ' They are fathers to us,' replied they in 
answer to my questions about the hospital, etc. We 
were then told to undress, the linen and clothes 
which we had worn hitherto were taken away, and we 
put on a kind of hospital uniform, consisting, besides 
the necessary underclothing, of stocking, slippers, 
a cap, and a thick dressing-gown of buflF-coloured 
<5loth which seemed to me to be lined with sticking- 
plaster. It was inexpressibly dirty, but nevertheless 
I felt grateful even for this small comfort which I 
had been deprived of for so long. These preliminaries 
over, we were conducted into the convict wards, 
which lay at the furthermost end of a very long, 
lofty, and clean passage. Everything looked bright 
and clean, at least outwardly, or perhaps it only 
seemed to me so compared to the convict prison. 
The two other patients entered a door to the left, 
and I stepped before another door to the right. It 
was fastened with an iron bolt, and watched by two 
sentinels with guns. The sergeant-at-arms gave the 
order to pass, and I found myself in a long 
narrow room with two rows of beds in it. There 
were fourteen beds on each side, and all of them 
occupied with the exception of two or three. The 
bedsteads were of wood and painted green, an omi- 
nous colour which is only too well known to every 
JRussian, as, through some ' mysterious coincidence, 
such beds are invariably inhabited by bugs. I 
.took possession of a bed in a comer on that side 
of the room where the windows were. As I have 



said before, there were convicts from our prison 
in the ward. Some of these knew me personally, 
while others had seen me before, but had never 
spoken to me; but by far the greater number of 
the patients came from the reformatory battalion or 
from other departments. Very few of the men were 
ill enough to be in bed ; the rest, who were either 
only indisposed or else reconvalescent, sat about on 
their beds, or walked up and down in the passage 
between the two rows of beds. A close, nauseous 
smell pervaded the whole room, the air was impreg- 
nated with unpleasant exhalations and the odour of 
drugs, although a fire was kept up in the stove 
nearly all day long. My bed was covered with a 
striped case, which I removed, and beheld a woollen 
counterpane lined with canvas and coarse bedclothes 
of very doubtful cleanliness. A small table stood by 
the bedside, on which were placed a jug and pewter 
dish, modestly concealed under a diminutive towel. 
There was a shelf under the table where such of the 
prisoners as could afford to drink tea kept their tea- 
pots, and the rest their jugs of kvas, etc. Almost 
everybody in the wards, including the consumptive 
patients, kept a pipe and tobacco-pouch hidden under 
their beds. The doctors and officers on duty never 
searched them, and if by chance they caught a patient 
smoking they pretended not to see it. The patients 
themselves took good care not to be caught, and ge» 
neially smoked into the stove, except at night, when 
they indulged in this pleasure lying in their beds^ 
bat then hardly anybody ever entered the ward at 
night except perhaps occasionally the officer on duty. 





This was the first time in my life that I wa« ill in 
a hospital, and I felt interested in the novelty of my 
situation. I soon became aware, however, that I too 
was an object of great interest to my neighbours. 
They had heard about me, and scanned me curiously 
with that air of superiority which senior schoolboys 
are apt to assume towards a new boy who has come 
to school for the first time in his life. The bed on 
my right was occupied by a prisoner who had been 
under trial for a whole year. He was the natural son 
of a discharged captain, had served in some Govern- 
ment office as clerk, and finally joined a gang of 
coinei-s, but had succeeded in evading his punish- 
ment by making the doctors believe that he had 
■an aneurysm. He actually lay in bed for two whole 
years, although nothing was the matter with him, 

and was then sent to some other hospital in T • 

He was a stout, square-built fellow, about twenty-eight 
years old — a shrewd, impudent, self-conscious'wretch, 
who hisid persuaded himself that he was the most 
honest and truthful being in the world, and perfectly 
innocent of the crime imputed to him. This agree- 
able young man spoke to me at once, and after duly 
informing me that he was the son of a captain, and 
therefore of gentle birth, asked me several questions, 
and initiated me into the internal arrangements of 
the hospital. The next who spoke to me was a 
igrey-haired soldier from the reformatory battalion, 
Tchek6unoff by name, who told me that he had known 
many of the gentlemen convicts who had been in the 
hospital long before my time, and repeated a whole 
fitring of names. I <^uld see by his face that he 



not speaking the truth, and that he had invented all 
the names with the object of ingratiating himself 
with me, as he supposed that I was not altogether 
without cash. I had brought with me a little parcel 

of tea and sugar, but had no teapot, M having 

promised to send me one the next day by a convict 
who was working in the hospital. Tchekounoff at 
once offered to get me a teapot and make me some 
tea. He managed to get an iron kettle somewhere 
and a cup, boiled the water, made the tea, and iu a 
word waited upon me with great zeal, which imme- 
diately gave ris« to a great many sarcastic remarks 
from a patient named Ousti^nzeff, whose bed Avas 
opposite mine. He was the yoimg soldier I men- 
tioned in the first part of these Memoirs as having 
taken brandy in which he had previously soaked 
snuff, and who was now dying of consumption in the 
hospital. He had hitherto remained silent, breathing 
with difficulty, looking fixedly and seriously at me, 
and watching every movement of Tchekounoff with 
great indignation. At last he could not suppress his 
rage any longer and broke out. 

^ So the serf has found his master,' said he slowly, 
in a weak voice, gasping for breath. He was dying 

Tchekounofif turned round angrily. 

* \Mio is the serf? ' asked he scornfully. 

* You,' replied the sick man, with the air of one 
who had a right to scold Tchekounoff, and had even 
been appointed to do it. 


* Yes — youj you, you, you 1 Hear him, good 


THK ilOSPlTAJL 223^ 

people^ he will not believe me when I tell him it is 

* Mind your own business. Don't you see that the 
gentleman is not accustomed to wait upon himself? 
Why should I not help him, you shaggy-faced fool ? ' 

* Whom did you call- a shaggy-faced fool ? ' 

* You are a shaggy-faced fool ! ' 

* I a shaggy-faced fool ? ' 

^ Yes, you — who else ? Did you think, perhaps,^ 
that you are a beauty ? ' 

* If I am a shaggy-faced fool, your face is like a 
crow's egg ' 

* I say you are a shaggy-faced fool. Why don't 
you die quietly now that God has killed you, instead 
of bothering other people ? What do you want ? ' 

* I will tell you what I want. I had rather bow 
to a boot than a wooden shoe. My father always 

said so. I, I ' Here he was interrupted by a 

violent fit of coughing, which left him so weak that 
he could only express his indignation by waving his 
hand frantically at us. The cold perspiration stood 
on his narrow forehead; he looked daggers at us^ 
but was unable to speak. 

Tchekounoff shrugged his shoulders and went on 
getting my tea. 

I could not help feeling that I had been in some 
measure the cause of this sudden outbreak of passion. 

Nobody would have found fault with Tchekounoff 
for making himself useful to me, and trying to earn 
a copeck or two. But there was the old story again — 
they hated me. Ousti4nzefffeltinsultedby my drink- 
ing tea and giving myself airs, as he thought, pre- 



tending not to be able to do without a servant, 
although I liad nover asked any one to help me. On 
the contrary, I wished to show them that I was not a 
'white-handed,' delicately-nurtui*ed gentleman, and 
even prided myself not a little on having so far 
succeeded in ridding myself of my old aristocratic 

habits. But 1 really cannot say why it should 

alwa^^s happen thus, but I never could refuse the 
proffered services of all my different helpers who 
attached themselves to me, and ended by ruling so 
completely over me that I was their servant and they 
my masters, while it was generally believed that I was 
their lord and master, and could not do without 
them. I always felt vexed with myself for my weak- 
ness. Perhaps nobody would have even noticed 
Tchekounoff's sudden zeal if the poor irritable sick 
man had not drawn the attention of the other patients 
to us. Anyhow, they remained silent during the 
altercation between the two, and a few even assumed 
a haughty air, as if they considered this quarrel 
beneath their notice. They all seemed 'very much 
interested in something which was going to happen, 
and I understood from their conversation that they 
were expecting the arrival of a convict who was at 
that very moment running the gauntlet. Some 
said that he might consider himself rather fortunate 
to be let off so easily, as he had only been sentenced 
to five hundred strokes. 

By this time I had settled myself sufficiently in 
the ward to see that there were two classes of patients 
in it — ^those who were really ill, and those who were 
urell, bat had oome in to rest. By far the majority 


of the sick people seemed to be afflicted with scurvy 
and eye disease, both of which affections are endemic 
in that part of the world, and of the rest a few were 
ill with fever ; there were two or three cases of con- 
sumption, and some were merely indisposed. No 
care had been taken to separate the infectious or con- 
tagious diseases from the rest; the patients were 
huddled together indiscriminately, and even syphi- 
litic affections were not excluded. The doctors n«ver 
refused admittance to the poor fellows who asked to 
come in for a time to rest, especially if there hap- 
pened to be many empty beds. The convicts are so 
badly kept in the prison that the hospital, bad as it 
was, seemed to them a perfect Paradise, in spite of 
the mephitic air and tlie locked wards which nobody 
was ever allowed to leave. Some men would gladly 
have spent their whole life lying in bed, if only the 
doctor had let them. I examined my new comrades^ 
not without interest. On the other side of the room^ 
in the bed next but one to Ousti&nzeff, lay a convict 
called Mikhai'loff, whom I had seen in the prison 
only a fortnight ago. He had been ill for some time^ 
and ought to have been in the hospital long ago ; but 
he struggled with his disease with a kind of stubborn 
patience till his strength forsook him altogether. 
He was taken to the hospital soon after the Christ- 
mas holidays, and died there of galloping consump- 
. ti<m. I was struck by the terrible change which sick- 
ness had wrought in his &ce, which I remembered 
as one of the first that I had noticed in thn prison* 
t'..^"^ His neighbour was an old soldier from the reforma* 

lory battalion, who was fearfully dirty in his habits. 





But I am not going to speak here of every patient 
in the ward indiv'idiially. If I have mentioned this 
old gentleman at all it is only because of the impres- 
sion he produced on me. He was suffering from a 
bad cold at that time, and sneezed incessantly day and 
night, even in his sleep. At the moment lam speak- 
ing of, he was sitting on his bed, holding a small 
brown paper parcel with snuff in one hand, which he 
kept stuffing into his nose, to. produce more violent 
sneezing. After sneezing into his pocket-handkerchief 
he wiped it on his buff-eoloured dressing-gown. This 
he did all the week. Not one of the other patients 
seemed to think it worth his while to protest against 
his putting his dressing-gown to such use, although 
they knew that it might be their lot any time to 
wear the same garment. But then our common 
people are not very particular about such trifles. I 
felt quite sick at the sight, and involuntarily ex- 
amined my dressing-gown with a mixture of loathing 
and curiosity. It had for some time past been 
attracting my attention by its curious smell, which 
reminded me of drugs, plasters, pus, and still more 
unpleasant things, which is not to be wondered at, 
seeing that it had been worn by sick people from 
time immemoriaL The lining may perhaps have been 
washed once, but I am not too sure of that. At the 
present moment it bore very visible traces of having 
come into contact with various fluids and salves, 
blood, etc It often happened ihat convicts who had 
been flogged were taken to the hospital immediately 
after the execution, and had wet bandages applied 
to their bleeding and bruiaed backs. The dressing- 




gown was flung over the wet shirt, and got stained 
naturally enough. I was a frequent inmate of the 
hospital during the many years that I spent in the 
convict prison, but whenever I had to put on a dressing- 
gown I did so with fear and trembling. Among the 
objects of my aversion were the large and remark- 
ably fat lice who inhabited the said garments. Kill-\ 
ing a louse was an unfeiling source of delight and ^ 
amusement to the convicts, and whenever the crea- \ 
ture expired under the coarse clumsy nail of some 
Convict a broad grin of satisfaction illuminated the 
sportsman's face. Bugs were also held in great 
abomination, and many a long winter evening, which 
would otherwise have been exceedingly dull, was en- 
livened by an animated chase after those insects. So 
far as external appearances went nothing could be 
cleaner than our wards, with the exception of the bad 
smell ; but the internal arrangements left much to 
be desired. True, the patients were accustomed to 
dirt, and even looked upon it as one of the necessaries 
of life ; and the hospital arrangements <Jid not do 
much towards developing or fostering a sense of 
cleanliness. More of this hereafter. 

Hardly had Tchek6unoff given me my tea (it had 
been prepared with water which had stood in our 
ward for the last twenty-four hours^ as the pail was 
only filled once a day) when the door was thrown 
open, and the soldier who had just i>een flogged 
entered with a double escort. This was the first time 
I had ever seen a flogged man, though later on I used 
frequently to see them brought in, or even carried in 
if the punishment had been too severe. The arrival 

Q 2 



of such a poor wretch was always hailed by the 
patients as a pleasant change in their monotonous 
lives. Yet, as it would have been contrary to prison 
etiquette to show too mucli interest in them, they 
were generally received with ultra-severe faces and 
exaggerated gravity, except when the new-comer was 
a noted criminal who had been severely flogged, when 
he was treated with great respect and consideration. 
This time, however, the young culprit happened 
to be a poor young recruit who had deserted his 
regiment ; he was received in silence. To their 
praise be it said here, that the men never worried 
their suffering comrade either by useless expressions 
of pity or regret, or by bitter or sarcastic remarks, 
but quietly applied themselves to nurse and tend 
him, especially if he happened to l>e too weak to do 
anything for himself. The feldsheers never troubled 
themselves much about such a patient, knowing from 
experience that he woidd be well taken care of in the 
ward. The treatment consisted in laying a shirt or a 
sheet which had been dipped in cold water, and well 
wrung out, on the torn and wounded back, and ex- 
tracting the splinters of wood which frequently remain 
in the flesh from the sticks which have been broken 
on it« This latter operation is said to be exceedingly 
painful, but I have never seen a patient flinch under 
it, or even utter a groan. Only their faces would 
torn deadly pale, and a curious glitter came into their 
eyes as they glanced restlessly from one to the other 
with trembling lips, which they tried in vain to keep 
still by biting them. The new-comer was a tall, 
good-looking lad, who might have been twenty-three 


■ >^ 

t ■' i.^ i 


years old. His back was tniich bruised and swollen ; 
be was stripped to the waist, and a wet sheet had 
been flnng over his shoulders. He shivered as if he 
were bitterly cold as he walked up and down in the 
-ward for nearly an hour and a half. I happened to 
glance at his face as he passed by me ; there was a 
wild vacant look in his eyes, which wandered restlessly 
about the room and seemed unable to rest on any- 
thing. I imagined that he glanced wistfiiUy at my 
tea, which was smoking in the cup, while his teeth 
were chattering in his head with cold, so I asked him 
if he would like some. He turned round sharply, 
and without saying a word took the proffered cup, 
and swallowed the hot tea without sugar. Then he 
set down the cup, and, without thanking me, left the 
table, and again took up his restless wanderings back- 
wards and forwards through the ward. The other 
convicts left him to himself after rendering him the 
necessary services, and took no fiirther notice of him, 
to his evident satisfaction. It had grown dark mean- 
w^hile ; a small night-light was lighted in the ward, 
two or three convicts produced their own candles and 
candlesticks, the doctor paid his evening visit, the 
sergeant-at-arms on duty called the roll, a large 
wooden pail was brought in, and the doors locked for 
the night. During the daytime the convicts were 
allowed to leave the ward for a minute or so, but 
xinder no circumstance whatever during the night. 

A hospital in a convict prison is a very different 
institution from a common hospital, and a sick con- 
vict must bear his punishment even during his 
illness. I do not know to whom we were indebted 



for this preposterous arrangement, as well as for 
many others of which I shall speak more hereafter. 
Not to the doctors, for they were good and kind to 
us and had a friendly word for every one, and a poor 
prisoner who is cast off and scorned by all the world 
is very grateful tor their kindness. As we were not 
allowed to leave the ward for more than a minute at 
a time it is clear that out-door exercise, or at least 
a walk in the galleries and passages, was quite out of 
the question. Vet the patients in the other wards, 
who were not convicts, were free to take as much 
exercise as was good for them in the passages, and to 
breathe an air which, if not irreproachably pure, was 
at least less impregnated with mephitic exhalations 
than the air in our ward, which was hardly ever re- 
newed day or night. I shudder now when I think of 
the condition of the atmosphere at night in the hot, 
ill-ventilated room whither we came in search, of 
health. I have often wondered if our superiors really 
believed that a convict prisoner who applies to the 
doctor for leave to go to the hospital merely shams 
sickness and deceives the doctor in order to profit by 
a- moment's solitude when he goes to the retreat in 
the night, and make his escape. Where is he ta 
go to ? And how ? In what garb ? If the convict 
is allowed to leave the ward at aU during the day- 
time, surely the same permission might be granted 
him during the night. The door is always guarded 
by two sentinels, one of whom has a loaded gun ; the 
retreat is only two steps from the door, neverthe- 
less the convict is accompanied there by the second 
sentinel, who watches him all the time he is there. 



There is a double window in the closet with an iron 
<^rating before it, and in the court-yard below.another 
sentinel walks up and down all the night. In order 
to get out of the window it would be necessar}' first 
to smash both the panes and break the grating. 
Would the sentinel look on and let the prisoner do 
it ? But, supposing he kills the sentinel before the 
latter has time to give the alarm, he would still have 
to break the windows and the grating, which he could 
hardly do without attracting the attention of the 
warders wlio sleep at a short distance from the sen* 
tinel. And about ten steps further on two more 
sentinels mount guard at the door of the second con- 
vict ward, and more warders sleep near them. And 
where is a man to run to in the midst of winter in 
stockings and slippers, a dressing-gown and night- 
cap ? And if I am right in my surmise as to there 
being so little danger of a convict's escaping — ^there 
is none at all in reality— why should the last days 
and hours of sick people, who stand in greater need 
of fresh air than people who are well, be rendered so 
hard by needless cruelty ? 

While I am dwelling on abuses let me mention 
here another which has frequently roused my indig- 
nation. I am speaking of the chains which a sick 
convict is forced to wear until the last moment of his 
life. How is it that nobody, not even the doctors, 
have ever been struck by the cruelty of this proceed- 
ing, and used their influence with the Governors to 
allow a dying man to die without his chains ? It may 
^' ' Vt^v.^ be objected here that after all the chains are not a 

great weight, as they hardly weigh more than eight 



or twelve pounds. A healthy person can easily carry 
ten pounds without inconvenience, although I have 
been repeatedly ar:§ured that wearing chains for 
several years causes wasting of the limbs. But what 
must be the sufferings of a person dying of consump- 
tion — who is so weak that a straw seems a burden — to 
have that weight constantly attached to him and 
dragging him down. While I am writing these lines 
there rises in my memory the remembrance of poor 
Mikhailotf' s death-l>ed, who died a few days after I 
came. I had known him very little during his life- 
time. He was a spare, tall, fine-looking lad, not 
above twenty-five years old, very silent, and with a 
look of intense sadness in his face, which made the 
convicts say that he ' faded away ' in the prison. He 
was in the Special Department, and much liked by 
his fellow-prisoners. All I remember of his face are 
his beautiful dark eyes. He died on a clear, frosty 
day at 3 p.m. The sunshine was streaming in through 
the frozen green window-panes, and illuminating the 
pale face of the sufferer. Poor fellow, he passed 
away after a long and painful struggle. It was evi • 
dent in the morning that he no longer recognised us. 
The others tried to help him as well as they could, 
as he seemed to be in great pain, breathing with 
difficulty and gasping for air. He had thrown off 
one by one his bedclothes and his dressing-gown, and 
was pulling and tugging at his shirt, as if its weight 
were too much for him. They helped him to take 
it off. I could not help shuddering as I gazed upon 
iiiat long thin body, with its skeleton arms and legs, 
sunken abdomen, and protruding ribs. He was per- 




fectly naked, a wooden cross with a small «llk Isag 
attached to it was suspended round his neck, and the 
iron rings still hung loosely round his emaciated legs. 
The men were unusually quiet during the last half- 
hour of his life ; they talked to each other below their 
breath, and moved noiselessly about the room. No- 
body seemed inclined to talk much. Occasionally 
some one would make an indifferent remark or cast 
s, glance at the dying man, in whose throat the 
ominous rattling had already begun. Suddenly 
raising his trembling hand, he seized the amulet, 
And began to pull at it as if he felt oppressed by the 
tiny silk bag. Some one took it off for him, and he 
expired ten minutes later. One of the men knocked 
at the door and told the sentinel what had happened. 
The warder ciime in, and, after gazing stolidly at the 
corpse, went to call the feldsheer. The latter, a good- 
natured young fellow, who was perhaps a little too 
vain of his personal appearance (which was by no 
means unprepossessing), appeared soon after, walked 
<iuickly towards the bed, and with a look of profound 
professional wisdom felt the dead man's pulse, waved 
his hand, and left the room to report the case to the 
o£Bcer on duty, as the prisoner had been in the 
Special Department, and certain ceremonies had to 
be fulfilled before his death could be officially recog- 
nised. While we were waiting for the officer, one of 
the men remarked in a low tone that perhaps the 
dead man^s eyes had better be closed, whereupon 
another went quietly up to the corpse and closed its 
eyes. The little wooden cross was lying on the pillow ; 
he took it up, looked at it, hung it again on Mik- 



hailoff^s neck, and crossed himself. Meanwhile the 
dead &ce had ])ecome rigid. A ray of sunshine played 
on it; the mouth was partly open, showing two 
rows of white teeth which were hardly covered by 
the thin lips. At last the sergeant-at-arms on duty 
came in, in liis full uniform, followed by two warders. 
He approached the bed hesitatingly and casting 
doubtful glances at the convicts, who were watch- 
ing his movements in sullen silence. When he had 
nearly reacljod the bed he stopped suddenly, as if 
struck by j?omething — the naked, emaciated body with 
the heavy chains attached to it, as if in grim mockery, 
evidently produced on him a deep impression, and, 
moved by a >udden impulse, he took off his sword 
and lielmet, and crossed himself. He was a middle- 
aged man, \^rith a stern, grey, weather-beaten face. 
Tchekounoff, also a grey-haired old man, happened 
to be stiinding near him at that moment. He had 
been watching every one of his movements, looking 
fixedly into his face. Suddenly their eyes met, and 
TchekcSunofiPs under-lip began to quiver. He made 
a queer grimace, showed his teeth, and said hurriedly 
to the sergeant, moving his head in the direction of the 
corpse, ^ He had a mother once ! ^ and walked away. 

I felt as if these simple words had stabbed me to 
the heart. What made him say them, and how had 
they come into his head ? By this time the warders 
had taken up the corpse, the straw rustled under 
their hands, and suddenly, in the midst of the 
general nience, the chains fell off. One of the 
warders picked them up, and the body was carried 
oot. Everybody began to talk at once. 

But I have strayed from my subject. 



235 \ 


THE HOSPITAL {covtinvid). « 

It was the custom for the doctors to pay their visits 
early in the morning. About 1 1 a.m. the head phy- 
sician, escorted by his staff, made his appearance, the 
first medical visit having been paid us an hour and 
a half ago by his assistant. The latter was a clever^ 
kind-hearted young man. The convicts liked him, 
and used to say that he had but one fault — viz., he 
was too meek. He was not much given to talking, 
at any rate, and gave me the impression of feeling 
ill at ease in our presence. He was always ready to 
alter a patient's diet if the' latter did not like his 
food and begged for a change, and I think he would 
even have changed our medicines if we had asked 

When he paid his visits he always stopped before 
each bed, examined the patient and listened to his 
complaints vdth great attention, then prescribed for 
him, and gave him the necessary directions about 
his food. He could not help seeing sometimes that 
L. ^ ... the patient was quite well, and hzA nothing in the ^ ^ 

world the matter with him, but as the poor fellow ^ 

had come to the hospital to rest from his hard work,. '[ 



or to sleep on a mattress instead of bare boards, and 
in a warm room inste^id of a damp cell where crowds 
of pale, squalid wretches were huddled together 
awaiting their trial, he calmly put him down as a 
febris catctrrhall^^ and even let. him stay in bed for 
a week. This f(i)vi% catarrhalis was a constant joke 
among us. The convicts knew that this formula had 
been adopted by doctors and patients by a kind of 
tacit imderstanding to designate shamming illness^and 
they freely transIat^Hi it by ' reserve pain.' It hap- 
pened occasionally that a patient would abuse the 
doctor's kindness, and remain in bed till he had to 
be summarilv dismissed. Those were hard times for 
our assistant, who could never make up his mind to 
tell the man that he must get well and leave the 
hospital. He generally began by dropping sundry 
hints that he — i.e. the patient — seemed pretty well 
now ; that the ward was getting crowded, and so on, 
instead of writing ^sanatus est' on his ticket and dis- 
missing him without further ceremony. The head 
physician was also a kind-hearted, honest man, but 
much more energetic in his ways than his assistant. 
He was also universally liked and respected. As I 
have said above, he was always accompanied by his 
staff on his rounds. He always examined each patient 
separately, stopping longer with those who were seri- 
ously ill, and never leaving them without saying a 
kind word. I have never known him turn away a 
patient who was suffering from ' reserve pain ; ' but 
if the man obstinately refused to get better afte:c & 
xsertain length of time, he dismissed him without 
much ado, saying in a quiet decided tone, ^Well, 

«■/--%>* ^'-.•j '^ 


brother, I suppose you have been here long enough, 
and got fairly rested. It is time for you to go 

The most obstinate patients were generally either 
those who had a strong objection to work, especially 
in the summer time, or prisoners who had been sen- 
tenced to severe corporal punishment. I remember 
a case where the man could only be induced to leave 
by a most severe, not to say cruel, treatment. He 
had come in with some disease of the eyes ; they were 
red and inflamed, and he complained of a violent,- 
burning pain in them. He was blistered, dry-cupped^ 
had his eyes syringed daily with some sharp liquid, 
etc., but without any effect. At last the doctors 
guessed that he was deceiving them — this constant 
inflammation, which grew neither better nor worse, 
was a suspicious symptom. The other patients had 
known it all along, although he had never told them. 
He was a handsome young fellow, but there was a 
sinister, suspicious expression in his face which re- 
pelled us. He made friends with no one, but watched 
us suspiciously from under his half-closed eyelids as 
if he suspected everybody of evil intentions towards 
him. He had served in the army, been concerned 
in some robbery, which was discovered, and he had 
been sentenced to one thousand strokes, and I do not 
remember now how many years of penal servitude. 

I have said in the first part of my book that a 

convict prisoner will sometimes do a desperate thing 

to escape punishment for the tin^e-being — stab a 

K -^ v« -..^- fellow-prisoner or an officer on the night before the 

execution* He is again brought up for trial, and it 



makes no difference to him that he will still be 
flogged two months hence, and that his punishment 
will be more severe than it would have been now. 
I He has gained his end in putting off the dreaded 
• moment for a few days or weeks at the utmost, and 
j that is all he wanted. So little moral strength do 
these unfortunates possess I The convicts began to 
whisper among themselves that we ought to be on our 
guard, as he might take it into his head any time to 
murfler one of u?. But in spite of these dire fore- 
bodings, nobody thought of taking the least precau- 
tion, not even those whose beds were next to his, and 
who were consequently in danger of becoming his 
victims in an evil hour. He had been seen at night to 
rub his eyes with whitewash which he took from the 
wall, and something else, to make them look red and 
inflamed in the morning. At last the head physician 
lost all patience, and threatened to try a seton. But 
still the poor wretch could not make up his mind to 
get better, whether from obstinacy or pusillanimity 
I know not, for, although a seton is easier to bear 
than one thousand strokes with a stick, it is bad 
enough. The mode of application is as follows : — A 
large piece of skin on the back of the patient's neck 
is gathered together with one hand, and a knife is 
stuck through it. A piece of broad linen tape is 
then drawn through the wound. Every day at a 
certain hour the tape is pulled backward and for- 
ward to keep the sore open. The unfortunate suf- 
ferer bore this torture heroically for several days, and 
when at last he could bear it no longer, his eyes got 
suddenly well, and he asked to leave the. hospitaL 

!^^ '>i^J.«J; 

-i «*-w^ 



As soon as the sore on his neck was healed he left 
UR, and was flogged the next day. 

I may be wrong in calling the convicts pusillani- 
mous and cowardly after all, for the last moments 
before the punishment must be terrible. Still, I 
have known men leave the hospital long before their 
back was well to undergo the rest of their punish- 
ment and have done with it altc^ether, for the life 
of a prisoner committed for trial is a hundred times | 
worse than that of a convict prisoner. I have often 
noticed that men who have been much beaten in 
their lives seem to mind corporal punishment less 
than others. Their backs grow hard, and they them- 
selves indifferent, and they begin to look upon flog- / 
ging merely as a slight temporary discomfort. I 
know that this is the case from what I have been 
told by a convict prisoner from the Special Depart- 
ment, a Kalmuck by birth, who had been baptised 
late in life by the name of Alexander or Alexandra, 
as the others used to call him sometimes. This 
Alexander was a curious fellow, brave and shrewd, 
and exceedingly good-natured at the same time. He 
told me one day, laughing heartily, that he had been 
sentenced to four thousand strokes, but, suddenly be- 
coming serious, he assured me that he could never 
have borne them if he had not been accustomed to 
blows from his earliest days, and that all the time 
he lived with his tribe he could not remember a time 
when his back had not been scarred and bruised. He 
seemed to be profoundly grateful for the kind of edu- 
^ cation ^he had received. ^They beat me for* every- 

thing and anything, Alexander Petr6vitch,' said he 

'N.> .■ 




^ i 

to me one evening, as we were sitting on my bed in 
the gloaming, * and that for fifteen years. Ever since 
I can remember I have been beaten several times a 
day, till I got so used to it that I did not mind it a 
bit.' I do not remember now how and when he en- 
listed, although I suppose that he may have told me 
this episode of his life, which had been a very roving 
and unsettled one. All I recollect now is his telling 
me how terribly frightened he felt when he was sen- 
tenced to four thousand strokes for murdering his 
officer. ^ I knew that they were going to punish me 
severely, and I began to fear that this would be the 
end of me. I bad been accustomed to be whipped 
every day of my life ; still, four thousand strokes i& 
no trifle, and the worst of it was that the officei*s had 
taken a dislike to me. Well, it struck me that 
perhaps if I became a Christian they might let me 
off more easily. ^ly friends told me that my being 
a Christian or a heathen would make no difference ^ 
but still I thought that it would do no harm to try. 
So I was baptised and named Alexander, but my 
friends had been right after all, and not a word was^ 
said about my being pardoned. ^ That was too bad^ 
wasn't it now ? Says I to myself^ " Very well, you'll 
be sorry for that some time." And so they were, 
Alexander Petrovitch, for I gave them no end of 
trouble. You see, I can pretend to be dead — I mean 
not quite dead, but dying. Well, I was flogged ; my 
back felt as if it were on fire. I screamed ; but it 
was all in vain. When they began the second thou- 
fiand I felt that it was all over with me, my head 
swam round, my legs gave way under me, and I 



tumbled down flat. My face was purple ; I foamed 
at the mouth, breathed no more, and pretended to 
be dead. The doctor came and looked at me, and 
said, ^^ He is dying." They took me to the hospital, 
where I revived quick enough. Thus they flogged 
me twice, and I deceived them each time, and died 
after the third thousand ; but when it came to the 
fourth thousand, they were so angry, and beat so 
hard, that each blow seemed to count for three. Oh, 
bow they beat me ! That cursed last thousand was 
worse than all the other three together, and if 1 had 
not died just before the end, when there were only 
two hundred strokes left, they would have killed me 
on the spot. But I was no such fool as to let them 
kill me ; I knew better. I died again, and did it so 
well that they all thought, even the doctor, that it 
was all over with me this time. But when it came 
to the last two hundred strokes, they had their re- 
venge. And why could they not kill me now ? I'll 
tell you why — because I have been beaten all my 
life and got accustomed to it, else I would have been 
dead long ago. — oh, I have been beaten all my 
life,' he repeated thoughtfully, as if trying to remem- 
ber how many times he had been beaten. * No, no,' 
added he, after a moment's silence ; ^ it's no use, I 
cannot count the times I have been beaten — I could 
not, even if I tried hard.' Here he glanced at me, 
and burst out into a good-humoured laugh. I could 
not help smiling. < TU tell you something, Alexander 
Petr6vitch — ^whenever I dream at night it is always 
about a beating; I never dream about anything 
else.' I suppose that these dreamis must have troubled 




his slumbers considerably, as he often used to screant 
in his sleep, to the preat indignation of his fellow- 
prisoners, who immediately awakened him by sundry 
kicks and blows, and asked him, * What are you yell- 
ing for, you devil ? ' He was a healthy, square-built 
fellow, about forty-five years old, with a jovial dis- 
position. He lived in peace with every one, although 
he was a great thief and got many a drubbing for 
his thievish propensities ; but I do not think that 
there were manv convicts who did not steal, or who 
did not get beaten for it. 

I>et me add one remark here. I have often won 
dered at the total absence of all feelings of ill-will 
with which these poor fellows used to talk about 
their punishment and those who punished them. 
Tales of cruelty which would make my heart throb 
with indignation were told by the sufferers without 
the slightest shade of anger or hatred; not un- 
frequently they would laugh like children while 

relating their sufferings. I remember M once 

telling me how he had been beaten. Not being of 
gentle birth he had been sentenced to five hundred 
strokes with a birch rod. Some one else had told me 
about it, and I asked him whether it was true, and 
how he had felt at the moment. He answered me 
curtly, like a man who is suffering from some internal 
pain, and without looking at me, but I could see the 
colour rise in his cheeks. Suddenly he looked up 
with an expre8si<Hi of wild hatred in his eyes such as 
I have seldom seen in a human face, while his lips 
trembled with indignation. I knew that he would 
never forget thai part of his life's history. 


'<i 9*^J^'^ 


There was a certain Lieutenant Jerebj&tnikoff' 
among our officers about whom I heard many a tale 
during my stay in the hospital. He was, I think^ 
the only other officer besides the Major whom the 
convicts hated and disliked for his cruelty. He was 
a large, tall man, about thirty years old, with fat 
rosy cheeks, white teeth, and a coarse, loud laugh» 
Even the most superficial observer would have been 
struck by the thoughtless, vacant expression of his 
face. This Lieutenant Jerebjdtnikoff had a passion 
for whipping aod flogging, and nothing afforded him 
greater delight than to superintend an execution* \ 
He looked upon punishing as an art, which he culti- 
vated for its own sake, trying to invent all kinds of 
variations and new modes of punishment. I shall } 
merely give one instance out of a thousand which 
have been told me, to convey to the reader a faint 
idea of the cruelty which is sometimes practised in a 
convict prison. A prisoner is led out to run the 
gauntlet. Jerebj&tnikoff has been appointed ta 
superintend the execution. One glance at the long 
row of men armed with thick sticks suffices to kindle 
the fire of enthusiasm in his breast. He walks down 
the ranks, exhorting the soldiers with a significant 
look to be sure and do their duty, els e The 

poor fellows know too well the meaning of those 
words. The culprit appears on the scene of action,, 
and if by chance he happens to be unacquiEtinted with 
Jerebj&tnikoff's ways the latter is sure ^to play him 
some trick. It is the custom for a convicts-while he 
'is stripped and has his hands, tied' to the' butt-ends 
of guns preparatory to being dragged along the 

« 2 



* green street' by two corporals, who take hold of the 
barrels of the guns, and advance slowly, pulling 
the shrieking, shrinking, half-naked wretch after 
them — to implore the officer who superintends the 
execution to have mercy on him and not punish him 
too severely. * Most high-bom one I have pity on me, 
do not let them beat me too hard. Be a father to me, 
and I shall pray Crod for you every day of my life 1 
do not kill me; have mercy on me!' and so on. 
That was all that Jerebjdtnikoff wanted ; he imme- 
diately made a sign to the corporals to cease their 
preparations, and the following conversation took 
place: — 

* My dear friend, what can I do for you ? You 
know very well that I must obey the law.' 

* Most high-bom one 1 it is all in your hands — be 
merciful ! ' 

* Do you think that I do not feel sorry for you ? 
It is not pleasant for me to stand by and see them 
beat you. I am not a bad man, you know. Or 
maybe you think I am 

* Most high-bom one, we know that you are 
our father, and we your children I Be a father to 
me!' cries the convict, beginning to feel hopeful 
about his future. 

^ Look here, my friend ; I know that you have 
enough good sense to understand that it is not 
I who punishes you« Humanity commands that I 
dionld be merdfol to you, you poor sinner ! ' 

* Yoo are pleased to speak the truth, most high- 
born one!* 

^ Yes, I ought to be merciful to you, even if you 


'^'r^^^ir'*^^-. • 


were the greatest sinner on the face of the earth. 
But what can I do against the law ? I must serve 
God and my country ; and it would be wrong in D:ie 
to disobey the laws.' 

* Most high-bom one ! ' 

* Well, I will be merciful to you for once. I 
knoy that I am sinning against the law, but I shall 
do it just this one time, and not be too hard upon you. 
Stop a moment. Suppose I harm you by my kind- 
ness, instead of helping you to become a better man ? 
P^or aught I know you may take it into your head to 
think that you'll be let oflf as easily every time, and 
go and do something worse ; and then I shall have 
to answer for it all.' 

' Most high-bom one I I will try and keep my 
friends and foes from sinning ! I swear before the 
throne of the .Creator ' 

* Well, well. Promise me that you will sin no 

* May the Lord Almighty strike me down dead ; 
and may I, when I go to that other world ' 

* Hush, do not swear. Your word is quite suffi- 
cient. Will you promise me ? ' 

* Most high-born one ! ' 

* I forgive you for the sake of your tears, and 
because you are an orphan, are you not ? ' 

^ I am, most high-bom one ! I am quite alone 
in this world — my father and mother are both 

^ I forgive you because you are an orphan ; but^ 
mind, it is for the last time. Take him away,' ad4& 
he, in such a. kind voice that the convict does 



not know how to thank God for such a kind*hearted 
officer. The drum sounds ; the terri1>le prpcession 
starts at last ; the first soldiers lift their sticks. 

^ Beat him ! ' shouts JerebjdtnikofT, at the top of 
his voice. ^ Flog him ; strike him harder, harder, 
harder I Faster, bater ! Flog the orphan ; flog the 
scoundrel ! Oo-at it ; go at it I More, more, more I 
Faster, &ster ! ' The blows rain down on the unfor- 
tunate wretch ; he shrieks and staggers with the pain, 
while Jerebj&tnikoff runs down the Hue behind him, 
holding his sides and nearly bent double with laugh- 
ing. The tears run down his face, and you almost 
feel sorry for him, poor fellow ! He is delighted with 
his trick ; and when he can stop laughing for a few 
seconds, he roars again : * Flog him ; beat him 
soundly I Flog the orphan ; beat the scoundrel ! ' 

Occasionally he would vary his mode of action. 
The convict begins as usual to plead for mercy. 
Jerebj&tnikoff listens gravely to him, and says at 

* liOok here, my friend, I shall punish you severely, 
for yon deserve it. But I will not let them tie you 
to the butt-ends of their guns. Kun down the line 
as &8t as you can, and you will get through it in a 
shortar time. What do you think? Would you 
like to try?' 

The c<mvict hesitates a moment; He does not 
quite like this novel method of being punished; 
but he says to himself, ' After all he may be right. 
I shall im down the line as &st as I can, and get 
tinvugfa the whole thing in a much shorter time, 
and perhaps even escape a few blows.' 


^ I think I will tiy it, most high-boni oiie.' 
* Very well. Off with you 1 ' * Look sharp 1 ' shouts 
lie to the soldiers, knowing very well that the victim 
will not escape a single blow ; for woe betide the 
soldier who misses his aim. The convict starts at 
full speed, hoping to reach the end of the ^ green 
street ' before the soldiers have well lifted their sticks, 
but suddenly falls shrieking to the ground^^all the 
sticks seem to fall on his back at once. ^ No, most 
high-born one ; I had rather be punished according to 
the law,' says he, rising slowly to his feet, and looking 
pale and scared ; while Jerebj4tnikoff, who has been 
looking forward eagerly to this finale, shrieks with 
laughter. But it would t^ke too long to repeat all 
the stories which circulated about him in the prison. 
Similar stories, only perhaps of a less revolting 
character, were related about a certain Lieutenant 
Smekdloff, who had been Crovernor of our prison 
before the time of our Major. If the convicts spoke 
about Jerebj4tnikoff in an indifferent tone, without 
manifesting either much hatred or much admiration 
for his deeds, and even with a certain air of scorn, they 
remembered the reign of Smek4loff with unfeigned 
delight. The difference between these two men con* 
sisted merely in the different view which they each 
took of flogging. Jerebj^tnikoff revelled in the sen- 
sual pleasure which it gave him, while Smek4ioff, 
though by no means an adversary of corporal punish- 
ment^ did not care particularly ;wheth6r a man was 
flogged or not. But he po6S|d3sed^ sueh>i^ 
art of ingratiating himself Aviththe'cbtivicts that they 
looked back with deep regret to the bygone days when 

<•■ V. 



V ^ 

he whipped them. *He was like a father to us!*^ 
they used to say witli a sigh, comparing him with 
the actnal Governor. * What a kind soul he was ! ' 

Smekdloff was a simple-minded, unpretending 
creature, good-natured enough in his way, who had 
tact enough to know where to draw the line in his 
behaviour towards the convicts, so as to make them 
feel that, while in some respects he was their equal, 
he still remained their superior in others. Those 
who possess this peculiar art of making themselves 
liked by their inferiors are not always conscious of 
it. I think that the secret of it lies in the familiar 
way in which they treat them ; there is nothing 
about themselves that reminds one of a well-bred, 
dainty gentleman — on the contrary, there is a flavour 
of vulgarity about them, which attracts the lower 
clnsses, who will gladly exchange the best and kindest 
person in the world for the most wicked and cruel 
one if he only happens to be their equal in morality ; 
and if this latter individual should be really good- 
natured in his own way they will even worship him. 
Only a very few of Lieutenant SmekdloflTs tricks had 
been handed down to posterity, perhaps because there 
were so few of them, as the good Lieutenant sorely 
lacked the creative faculty. One of these will suffice. 
A convict is going to be whipped. Smek&loff appears 
on the scene, smiling and joking ; he at once enters 
into a lively conversation with the man, asks him all 
kinds of questions about his parents, his private affairs,. 
his life in the prison, etc. ; not with any peculiar pur- 
pose, bat amply because he likes to know all about 
him. The rods are brought, and a chair for Smeldl* 



.. i> iSl. 



loff, who site down and lights his pipe. He always 
smoked a long pipe. The convict begins his usual 
invocations for mercy, which Smek&loff cuts short 
by a peremptory, ' No, no, brother ; stop that and lie 
down 1 ' The culprit obeys with a sigh. * Do you 
know such a prayer ? ' asks Smek&lofF. * To be sure^ 
most high-bom one ! I am not a heathen, and was 
taught to pray when I was a boy.' * Let's hear it, 
then.' The convict has got his cue ; he knows from 
experience what prayer to repeat and how it will all 
end, for has not the same thing been done perhaps^ 
thirty or forty times before. Smek4loflF knows that 
the convict knows it all, and that the soldiers who- 
stand with lifted rods beside their victim have wit- 
nessed the performance many and many a time, but 
he will repeat it because it is his own invention, 
and he is not a little proud of his poetical talent.. 
The convict begins to pray, the soldiers stand by 
waiting, while SmekdlofF has half risen from his 
chair, and with lifted hand watches for the cue. The 
culprit repeats the first lines of a well-known prayer, 
and, when he comes to the words * in heaven,' * Stop.I ' 
shouts SmekdlofiT, and, turning to the soldier who 
stands there with his rod lifted, he adds, ^ Give 
him one, two, three, four, five, six, seven I' and 
roaring with laughter sinks back into his chair. 
The soldiers grin, and the sufferer all but smiles too,, 
although he has heard the well-kliown wprd of com- 
mand, and knows that in the next moment the rod 
will &11 on his bare back* ; Smek&loff is enraptured- 
^**^^'!r?t'^ with his poetical talent, for , he has composed the; 


f^ line and thought of the rhyme, and goes home after 


the execution in higfa spirite. So ia the culprit, and 
half an hour afterwards you may hear him teUing 
hia comrades about the thirty-firet repetition of a 
trick which has been played thirty times before. 
* What a good fellow he is I and so jolly too I ' And 
the memoiy of their good Lieutenant would awaken 
in their hearts a longing for those bygone times 
when he flogged them. 

' How well I remember him now,' some veteran 
would say, grinning at the remembrance, ' sitting by 
the window in his dressing-gown, drinkiDg t«a and 
«moking his pipe. I take off my cap. " Where are 
yOQ going to, AksenofF ? " "To work, Mikhail 
YassilyeTitcb ; " and be would smile. What a good 
man he was 1 ' 

'Aye, aye, we shall never have another like him,* 
remarks one of the listeners. 



THE lIOSriTAL {eontinnrd),^ 

The reason why I have not touched before on the 
subject of punishments and the executors of these 
interesting duties is simply this — I knew very little 
about it before I came to stay in the hospital, and 
the little I knew was only from hearsay. 

It was the custom to send all the military pri- 
soners, l)oth from the town and the whole district, 
who had been sentenced to severe corporal punish- 
ment to our two wards, and it seems natural that 
at that early epoch of my captivity, when the novelty 
of my surroundings had not yet worn off, the aspect 
of all those unfortunate wretches who were either 
awaiting their punishment, or who had just suffered 
it, should produce upon me a terrible impression. I 
well remember the eagerness with which I listened 
to the other convicts whenever the conversation 
turned on the subject of punishments, asking them 
questions, and trying to solve the many problems 
which seemed to be springing up on every side. I 
wanted especially to know the different grades of 

* I have heard eince that a great many alterations have taken 
place in the diacipline of convict prisons. — AtUhoi'9 remark. 



punlsbmeDt, the manner in whicb the sentence was 
carried out, what the convicts thought about it all ; 
and I tried to picture to myself the moral condition 
of those who were going to Ije flogged. 1 have al- 
readv remarked elsewhere that few men look forward 
to their punishment calmly — not even those who have 
Ijeen repeatedly flogged before. It seems as if, at 
such times, an involuntary and invincible sensation 
of physical terror took possession of the whole being 
of the delinquent and paralysed all his faculties. 

In after vears. when I had tfrown accustomed to 
many things, I ?till liked to watch those criminals 
who. not havinji; been able to bear the number of 
strokes to which they had >)een sentenced at once^ 
had been sent to the hospital, to stay there till their 
backs were healed, when they left it to imdergo the 
rest of their sentence. It is the duty of the prison 
doctor to be present at every execution, and to stop 
it if there is reason to fear that the patient might 
die under the blows. As a rule, a man can bear five 
hundred, one tliousand, or even one thousand five 
hundred, strokes, without any serious injury ; but if 
he is sentenced to two or even three thousand strokes 
or more, the sentence is divided into two or three 
parts of a thousand strokes each. Both on the day 
previous to their leaving the hospital, as well as on 
the ominou:; day itself, these unfortunates were sullen, 
morose, disinclined to talk. They wandered about 
the ward with an absent look in their eyes. Their 
room-fellows generally took no notice whatever of 
them, but left them entirely to themselves, without 
even trying to offer a word of consolation ; and in 
doing so they showed tact and good sense. There 


are, of course, exceptions to this as to everything 
else, as, for instance, the robber Orloff, whom I men- 
tioned in the fourth chapter of this volume. The 
reader will remember how anxious he was to get 
well so as to be able to undergo the rest of his 
sentence, start for Nertchinsk, and escape on the 
road. But then he was a man of a remarkably 
passionate nature, who thirsted for life ; and at the 
same time he was overjoyed to find himself still alive 
after receiving one-half of the strokes he had been 
sentenced to. It seems that while he was in prison 
awaiting his trial, various rumours had reached him 
to the effect that this time he would be punished 
according to the utmost rigoiu* of the law, and he 
had fully expected to die under the blows. But 
when, aft^r all, he did survive the first part of his 
punishment he became more hopeful. True, he was 
more dead than alive when he was taken to the hos- 
pital, his back was in a fearful condition, but he 
wanted to live, he thirsted for life — they had not 
killed him after all, and there was no reason to be- 
lieve that the rumours were true ; and he might be 
free once more, and roam about in the woods and 
fields if he succeeded in escaping on the road. Two 
days after he left the hospital he came back to it to 
die in the same bed he had occupied during his pre- 
vious stay there. 

And yet the same men who dreaded the very 
thought of punishment bore their sufferings heroic- 
ally. I seldom heard them groan or complain of 
pain, not even on the first night after the flogging ; 
but then our common people are used to pain, and 
know how to bear it. 



By the way, I remember asking repeatedly what 
the pain was like, and whether it was really as bad 
as was generally assumed. I do not think that I 
asked such questions from idle curiosity, though I 
reallv do not know now what made me ask them at 
the time. But I never got any satisfactory answer — 
all they could tell me about it was that the pain was 
of a burning character. I once put the same ques- 
tion to M when we had become more intimate. 

^ The pain is intense,' said he, * and I felt at the same 
time as if my back were being roasted over a large 

The convicts unanimously assured me that they 
preferred flogging to whipping, as the latter is the 
more painful openition of the two. Four or five 
hundred strokes with a birch rod are almost sure to 
kill a man, and a thousand strokes will kill even the 
strongest man ; while the same number of strokes 
with a cane will hardly injure a man of medium con* 
stitution. I suppose that whipping has a more irri- 
tating effect on the nerves than flogging, and for 
that reason gives more pain. 

The convict prisoners and criminals in general are 
whipped by the executioner. There are two classes 
of executioners — free men who do it for a living, and 
convicts who are first apprenticed to another execu- 
tioner for a certain time, till they have learnt his 
art^ when they are sent to some prison, where they 
remain for life. The first class of executioners 
is naturally of a much lower moral standard than 
the latter, and yet the former are much more 
respected, and even liked, than the latter, who are 



universally despised and feared by the O0mmon 
people. I have often wondered why one exe^tioner 
should be the object of a superstitious fear, while 
the other is treated like any ordinary mortal* I 
have heard many curious stories about these men^ 
and known them do strange and apparently cruel 
things. Thus, I have seen executioners who were 
by no means cruel or ill-natured men fly into a 
rage because their victim would not scream and 
ask .. for mercy, thereby infringing an ancient cus- 
tom, which demands that every culprit who is being 
whipped should scream as loud as he can, and ask 
for mercy. I remember that one of them whom I 
knew personally, and who was considered even a 
good-natured man, grew so angry at his victim's 
stubbornness, that he actually gave him fifty strokes 
or so over and above his due. He had at first in- 
tended to be very merciful to him, but not hearing 
the usual piteous cries of * Most high-bom one 1 be 
a father to me ! Have mercy on me, and I shall 
pray God for you all the rest of my life I ' he went 
on beating till he gained his end, and made his vic- 
tim scream. * I cannot abide impudence,' said he to 
me when I remonstrated with him about his cruelty* 
The convict executioner lives in the prison in a room 
by himself, and lives very well too, but is never 
allowed to go out without an escort. He is an artist 
in his way, and likes to show off. It is not impos- 
sible that his peculiar position may ticnd to foster 
and develop in him any latent tendency to brutality ; 
but it seems also to develop in him a feeling of pride. 
Nearly all the executioners that I have met were 


clever, thoughtful men, very ambitious, and ezces- 
' sively proud. 

I had the chance once of observing an executioner 
for some length of time. He was a man of medium 
size — about forty, I should think— with a muscular, 
«inewy body, a pleasant, clever face, and curly hair. 
He was always scrupulously clean and neat in his dress, 
and remarkably calm and dignified in his behaviour. 
Wlien spoken to he would answer briefly and with 
an air of patronising kindness, as if he were doing 
me a favour. The officers would occasionally enter 
into conversation with him, and, curiously enough, 
they never treated him witii the same familiarity 
with which they spoke to other convicts. It was 
amusing to me to watch him grow more dignified, 
polite, and reserved in his manner towards them the 
more kindly they spoke to him. At such times it 
was clearly written in bis face that he considered 
himself far superior to his officer. 

On hot summer days he used sometimes to be 
sent with an escort, and armed with a thin, long 
pole to destroy the dogs in the town. There were a 
great many stray dogs in the place, who increased 
with remarkable rapidity and became positively dan- 
gerous in the hot weather. It was really worth while 
to mark the dignified way in which he marched about 
the streets followed by his weary escort, frightening 
the women and children, and scanning the passers-by 
with an air of quiet contempt. 

It is the custom for a civil criminal who has been 
sentenced to corporal punishment to bribe the execu<^ 
tioner previooa to the execution. If the culprit 


happens to be rich, the former demands a certain 
sum, thirty or more roubles, according to the means 
of the latter ; sometimes he will name a most exor- 
bitant sum. He dares not punish his victim too 
leniently, as in such a case he would have to pay for 
his indulgence with his own back ; but he promises 
him that he will not beat him too severely if he is 
paid a certain siun. The victim, as a rule, gladly 
accepts the conditions, knowing that if he should 
demur he will be beaten half-dead. But it some- 
times happens that the executioner demands a very 
high sum of a very poor delinquent, who has not the 
means of satisfying his covetousness. In such cases 
the friends and relatives of the criminal almost go 
down on their knees before the executioner, implor- 
ing him to take less, and trying to soften his heart, 
but generally in vain, and woe betide the victim if 
his torturer has not been satisfied. Of course, in 
such cases the power of the executioner is greatly 
overi-ated by the terrified victim and his friends. It 
is universally believed, and the convicts repeatedly 
assured me, that he is able to kill his victim at the 
first stroke. I cannot vouch for the truth of this 
assertion, never having had the occasion of verifying 
it ; but the executioner himself told me that it was 
true. Another of the current stories about him is 
that he can strike an apparently heavy blow without 
inflicting the least pain or leaving the slightest trace 
on his victim's back. 

It is the custom among executioners, even when 
they have been bribed into punishing the victim less 
severely, to strike the first blow with all their strength, 




while the others are less sharp. The first stroke is 
theirs, p<ir excellence^ and they have a right to do 
with it as thev please. I do not know whether this 
is done with a view to accustom the victim at once 
to the pain, so as to make the succeeding blows seem 
less sharp, or whether the executioner wants to 
impress the criminal with a sense of his superior 
power and strength — ^to show off, in short. The exe- 
cutioner is always much excited before he goes to 
the execution ; he knows that in such a moment he, 
the outcast, is lord and master. He acts a part be- 
fore the assembled crowd, who look on in breathless 
admiration ; and it is not without a feeling of plea- 
sure, or rather satisfaction, that he shouts the tradi- 
tional words to his victim, ^ Look out I I'm going 
to burn you I ' 

I heard these tales, and many more of the same 
kind, during my first stay in the hospital. Never in 
all my life have I suffered more from en/nui than in 
those days when I lay in my bed in the ward. 

True, in the morning there was the doctor's visit 
to look forward to, and then the dinner, which was 
always the most important event of the day. The 
dietary was varied according to the patient's condi- 
tion. Some only had soup or gruel given them, 
and others semola pudding, which was a favourite 
dish among the conncts, who were apt to become 
exceedingly dainty and fastidious in their food. The 
convalescents had a piece of boiled beef — ^ ox,' as it 
was called — for their dinner, but we all preferred the 
diet iHiich was prescribed in cases of scurvy, and 
which consisted of a piece of beef, with onions, horse- 

».♦-•<.•'( . • 


radish, and greens, and occasionally a glass of brandy. 
The bread was good, and we liad either brown or 
white given us, according to the condition of our 
stomachs. All these precautions were a source of 
infinite amusement to the convicts, who were inclined 
to look upon them as mere pedantic formalism, and 
ate what they liked. Dinners were continually bought 
and sold ; some, who were forbidden to eat anything 
but soup and pudding, bought beef kviis and hospital 
beer of those who had been put on a more nourishing 
diet. There are some large eaters who would even 
buy two dinners. A meat dinner was rather an ex- 
pensive luxury, as it cost five copecks. If nobody 
could be prevailed upon to sell his dinner in our 
ward, the warder was despatched into the other ward 
to see if perchance the patients were more obliging 
there, or even into the military wards. The vendors 
had dry bread for their dinner on such days, but were 
perfectly satisfied with their bargain. The convicts 
were all more or less very poor ; but those who hap- 
pened to be a little better oflf than the rest frequently 
bought kalatchi, or even goodies and sweets. Our 
warders were very good about going into the town 
and buying anything we wanted without expecting 
any remuneration. 

Dinner over, there was the long, dull afternoon 
before us. How endless it seemed ! Some tried to 
kill the time by sleeping, others chatted together, or 
quarrelled, or told stories. The arrival of a fresh 
patient was hailed as a most welcome diversion, 
especially if he happened to be a stranger. He was 
scanned from head to foot, and asked where he came 

8 2 



from, what he had been doing there, etc. If the new- 
comer had been sent to us from some other convict 
prison, be was sure to become an object of great in- 
terest, as be might have something to relate about 
his journey, his companions, the road, and the place 
of his final destination. They seldom spoke of their 
own affairs, and nobody asked them any questions on 
that subject. Sometimes the men would compare 
notes about their journeys, officers, and so forth, and 
the conversation would become quite animated. 
Military criminals who had been flogged also gene- 
rally made their appearance towards night, but they 
did not come every day ; and somehow or other we 
always seemed to feel the tedium of the afternoon 
more on such days, when nocriminals had been brought 
in. Another source of amusement were the lunatics, 
who were not unfrequently taken to the hospital till 
it could be decided whether their minds were really 
affected, or whether they were only simulating mad- 
ness. Prisoners who are under trial will sometimes 
resort to this last expediency to save themselves from 
punishment ; but they seldom have patience enough 
to carry on their simulation for more than two or 
three days, when the raving madman would at once 
become quiet and docile, and ask suddenly to be dis- 
charged. Neither the doctors nor the other patients 
ever remonstrated with them about their previous 
behaviour; they were allowed to depart in peace, 
and generally came back to us two or three days later 
to recover fi'om the effects of their flogging. Beal 
maniacs, who were sent to us on trial, were a terrible 
infliction. At first, when they came in shouting. 


laughing, dancing, and singing, the convicts would 
be delighted with their contortions, and gaze at then^ 
rapturously for hours ; but after a while the constant 
shouting and gesticulating became terribly weari- 
some, and before two days had passed they would 
have given anything to get rid of their troublesome 
inmate. Once — I think it must have been in my 
third year in the prison — we had two of these unfor- 
tunate wretches in our ward at the same time. One 
of them had been there for three weeks when the 
other arrived. His was a peculiar case. In the first 
year, or rather in the first spring, that I spent in the 
prison, I had been sent with several others to work 

in the brick-kilns. On the first day M and 

B introduced me to the overseer of the kilns. 

Sergeant Ostroshsky, who lived there. He was a 
Pole by birth ; a tall, spare old man of sixty, who 
presented a grand and truly imposing appearance. 
He had ser\'ed for many years in Siberia, having 

been there since 1830, 1 think, and M and B 

liked and even respected him, in spite of his low 
birth. I suppose his father had been a peasant. 
He spent all his spare time reading the Bible. I 
entered into conversation with him, and was much 
pleased with his kind, cheerful manner. He told us 
some interesting stories about himself, and looked 
the very picture of honesty and benevolence. I lost 
sight of him for two years, when some one told me 
casually that he had been brought up before a court- 
martial for something he had done, I know not what^ 
and now he was brought into our ward a raving mad- 
man. He entered the room shrieking and laughing. 



and began to dance and jump about with the most 
uncouth, not to say indecent, gestures. The convicts 
were delighted with tlieir new inmate, but I felt in- 
expressibly sad. Before three days were over we did 
not know what to do with him. He quarrelled and 
fought with everybody, shrieked, yelled, sang day 
and night, and behaved altogether in such an inde- 
cent way that even the convicts were disgusted. He 
was put into a strait-jacket, but that made matters 
only worse. Once or twice we begged the head 
physician to have him removed to the other ward ; 
but hardly had he been there two days when 
they begged to have him removed to his former 
quarters. As the other lunatic happened to be also 
of a quarrelsome disposition, we finally hit upon the 
expediency of excbangiog maniacs with the other 
ward, so that we might each have our share of both. 
We all breathed more freely when they were at last 
removed from the hospital altogether. 

I remember another curious case of lunacy. One 
summer day a new patient was brought into the 
ward, and put into the bed next to mine. He 
was a healthy-looking, uncouth fellow, about forty- 
five years old, terribly marked with small-pox, with 
remarkably small eyes and a sombre sullen expres- 
sion. For some time he remained still on his bed, 
apparently lost in thought, and without speaking to 
any one. Suddenly, towards dusk, he turned to me, 
and, without any further preamble, but with an air 
of profound mystery, informed me that he had been 
sentenced to two thousand strokes, but that he 
was going to be pardoned because the daughter of 




Colonel G had interceded for him. I was rather 

puzzled, for he had come in as an ordinary patient, 
not as a maniac, and replied that I did not think 
tliat the lady in question, even if she were a colonel's 
daughter, could have attained his pardon. I asked 
him what was the matter with him. He answered 
that he was quite well, and did not know why he 
had been sent to the hospital, but that the Colonel's 
daughter had fallen in love with him. A fortnight 
ago she was driving past the guardhouse, when he 
suddenly happened to look out of the window, upon 
which she fell in love with him immediately, and 
had already come three times under various pretexts 
to the guardhouse to see him. The first time she 
had come with her father to speak to her brother, 
who was on duty in the guardhouse ; another time she 
had come with her mother to distribute alms among 
the prisoners, and had whispered to him that she 
loved him and would save him. It was strange to 
hear him tell this story, which had originated in his 
poor diseased brain. He was fully persuaded of 
having been pardoned, and talked in a quiet con- 
fident manner about the yotmg lady's passionate love 
for him. It was singular to hear a man of his age, 
and with such an unprepossessing appearance, tell a 
romantic love story. I suppose the poor fellow may 
have seen some one from the window of his cell at a 
time when the fear of the impending punishment 
had already begim to work upcm his brain; the 
thought that he might perhaps be pardoned if some, 
one would only try and intercede for him may have 
flashed through his mind and started a whole train of 



delorions. I listened to him in silence, and then told 
the other prisoners what he had been saying; bat 
when they in their turn began to question him 
he refused to answer and relapsed into silence. The 
neit day the doctor came and examined him care-^ 
fully ; but as there seemed to be nothing the matter 
with him, and he repeatedly told the doctor himself 
that he was quite well, he was discharged at once* 
Perhaps if we had known that the doctor had written 
^ sanat.' on his ticket we might have told him what 
was the matter, but we did not find it out till the 
doctor had left the ward and it was too late to say 
anything. It turned out afterwards that he had been 
sent to us by mistake, through some misunderstand- 
ing or other; or perhaps those who sent him to the 
hospital thought that he was feigning madness and 
wanted to ascertain if this were really so. On the 
second day he was flogged. We heard afterwards 
that he had seemed very much surprised that he 
should have been punished after all, and had even 
screamed for the police. When he came back to the 
hospital he was put into the other ward, as there was 
no room in ours. I asked how he was, and they told 
me that he had not spoken a word during the whole of 
the time which he spent there, and had seemed very 
much cast down and puzzled. He was sent away 
somewhere wh&i his back was healed, and I lost sight 
of him entirely. 

I noticed that the patients who were only slightly 

(indisposed, or, at least, not seriously ill, hardly ever 
carried out the doctor's prescriptions, and did not 
take medicine; while those who were seriously iU, 



on the contrary, took their mixtures and powders , 
regularly. All external remedies and applications 
were in great favour with the convicts, who believed 
blindly in the efficacy of dry-cupping, bleeding, blis- | 
tering, poidticing, etc, I was much struck with one ■ 
curious fact — the very same men who only a short j 
time before had borne the most excruciating pains 1 
without uttering a groan, writhed about and com- ' 
plained bitterly of the pain when they were cupped. I 
do not know whether they had grown all at once so sen- 
sitive to pain, or whether they were merely pretending 
to suffer. To tell the truth, the method of cupping 
as it was practised in our hospital was by no means 
a painless proceeding. The cupping glass had been 
lost or spoiled since time immemorial, so that th^ 
feldsheer was obliged to make the necessary incisions 
with a lancet. Cupping with a scarificator is a 
comparatively painless process, the instrument cuts 
through the skin at once ; but it is no joke to have 
perhaps one hundred and twenty incisions made slowly 
with a lancet in lieu of ten cupping glasses applied 
at once. I speak from experience ; but though the 
pain was bad enough, still I found that I could bear it 
without groaning. If a patient made too much fuss, 
or complained too bitterly of the pain, the others were 
sure to sneer at him for being so delicate, or would 
even occasionally give him a good scolding, which in- 
variably had the eflfect of silencing him effectually, 
Oustyanzeff had a special dislike to such milksops, 
and never missed an opportunity of taking them 
severely to task for their effeminate ways and lack 
of fortitude. I suppose he could not have existed 



without scolding. Sometimes he would look seriously 
and Oxedly at us for some time without speaking, as 
if trying to collect his ideas or preparing a speech, 
and then begin to lecture us in a calm, confident 
voice as if he had been placed there to watch over 
us and look after our morals. 

* He pokes his nose into everything,' the convicts 
would say, laughing. They were very good and for 
bearing, and never swore at him, but only joked good- 
humouredly about his passion for lecturing. 

* There, now ! I suppose there must be at least 
three cartloads of words ! ' 

* Hold your tongue I Nobody takes oflF bis hat to 
a blockhead. Why does he make such a fuss about 
cupping ? If you have eaten the honey you must eat 
the gall too, and learn to bear pain.' 

* It's none of your business ! ' 

' Ay, ay, brothers I ' interrupted one of the pa- 
tients, * cupping is not so bad after all ; but let me 
tell you that there is nothing worse than having one':^ 
ears nearly wrenched off.' 

The other patients burst out laughing. 

* Did they pull your ears ? ' 

^ To be sure they did, and with a vengeance too ! ' 
*• That's what has made your ears stand off your 
head, I expect ! ' 

The first speaker, the convict prisoner Shdpkin, 
boasted, in fiict, of remarkably long ears, which stood 
almost straight off firom his head. He was a young 
man yet, and had been sent to us for vagabonding.. 
He was a clever, quiet fellow, with a great deal of 



quiet humour, which sometimes rendered his stories 
irresistibly comical. 

* I never thought of your ears, I declare ! Why 
sliould I think of your ears, you blockhead ? ' burst 
out Oustyanzeff, looking angrily at Shdpkin, although 
the latter had not spoken to him ; but ShApkin paid 
no attention to him. 

* \\Tio pulled you by the ears ? ' asked some one. 

* Who else but the IsprAvnik. You see, brethren, 
there are two of us, I and another tramp — they called 
him Jef im ; and we were wandering about the land. 
Well, we got to a village called Tolmina, and rested 
there a short time. Wlien we entered it, we looked 
round ; it was a nice place enough to rest in, and 
l)esides we always preferred the country to the town. 
You are free to do what you like in the country, you 
know, but a town is a wretched shut-up place. First 
of all we went to the kaback * to take a drop of some- 
thing. All at once there comes up to us a ragged 
beggar dressed in an old dress-coat, and begins to talk 
to us. Says he : '* May I ask you whether you have 
any documents ? " ' " We have not," said we. " Just 
so," says he, " we have none either. There are three 
of us here," says he, "and we all serve under General 
Koukoushkine.* We have been spending all our 
tin, and not yet been able to get any more— would 
you be kind enough to treat us to some more liquor ? '* 

* " With great pleasure," said we. So we sat down 
all together, and drank the liquor. They told us 

* A tavern. « Cant for passport 

' I.e. in the -wood where the cuckoo sings. 



about a house somewhere on the outskirts of the 
town, where a rich tradesman lived all by himself; 
and we all agreed to pay him a visit that same night 
in a body. But unfortunately we were all caught 
that same night in his house, and locked up till the 
morning, when they took us before the Isprdvnik. 

^ He wanted to examine us himself. We waited 
a while, and then he comes in with his pipe ; he was 
a large man with whiskers, and his man brought in a 
cup of tea for him. He sits down in front of us. 
There were three other tramps besides our own party. 
Queer chaps, those tramps, my brother:;: ; they never 
remember anything, but seem to have forgotten every 
blessed thing they knew in their lives. The Ispr&vnik 
turns to me. " What's your name ? " roars he. So, 
naturally enough, I answered him like the rest : ^^ I 
have forgotten it, most high-born one ! '' 

* " Very well," says he, " I shall talk to you more 
by and by. I know your face," and he stares at me till 
I thought his eyes would drop out of his head. I 
had never set eyes on him in my life before. He 
turns to another : ^^ And what's your name ? " 

* ** Run-quickly, most high-bom one ! " 

* ** Is your name Run-quickly ? " 
* " It is, most high-bom one." 

* " Very well, Mr. Run-quickly. And you ? " to 
the third. 

' ^^ And-I*run-after-him, most high-bom one." 

' ** I want to know your name." 

<<<That is my name, And-I-run-afber-him, most 
high-born one." 

* ** Who gave you that name, you scoundrel ? " 

• "" » t » • 

THE HOSPn'AL. 269 


' " Good people, most high-born one. There are 
many good people in this world, most high-lx)rn one.** 

* " Who are these good people ? " 

* " I have forgotten all about them, most high- 
bom one, if you will kindly excuse me." 

* " Have you forgotten them, too ? " 

* *' I have, most high -bom one." 

* " But you must have had a father and mother, 
surely ? Don't you remember them ? " 

' ** I suppose I must have had them sometime, most 
high-born one ; but I could not tell you for certain. 
I suppose I have had them, most high-bora one." 

" Where have you been all this time?" 

" In the wood, most high-bom one." 

" All this time ? " 

" All this time." 

" But surely not in the winter ? " 

" I don't know what that is, most high-born one." 

" What is your name ? " 

" The-hatchet, most liigh-born one." 

*' And you ? " 

" Sharpen-the-knives, most high-bom one." 

" And you ? " 

" Wait-a-bit, most highborn one." 

*' So you have forgotten everything, hey ? " 

" Just so, most high-bom one." 

There he stood laughing, and we all laughed too. 
We were not always let off so cheaply. I have known 
him strike us in the face if he did not like our answers. 
We did not look as if we had been starving, anyhow. 
*^Take them away," says he, ** and lock them up in 
the gaol. And you will stay here," says he to me. 


^Gome here, sit down.** There was a table with 
paper and pens on it in the room. Says I to myself, 
" What can he be about ? " " Sit down," says he, '* on 
this chair. Take a pen and write ; " and takes hold 
of my ear, and pulls away at it as hard as he can pull* I 

I stare at him like the devil when he looked at the 
priest. ^^ I can't write, I don't know how, most high- 
bom one,** says I. 
* " Write," says he. 

* ** Have pity on me, most high-bom one." 
* " Write," roars he, and pulls away at my ear, and 

nearly wrenches it off my head. 

* I tell you, brothers, I would rather have been 
whipped than have my ears pulled like that.' 

^ Had he gone mad ? ' 

^ No, not he. It seems that just about that time 

a beggar of a clerk in T had been eml^ezzling 

some money which belonged to the Government, and 
nm away with it ; and he had ears like mine. So I 
was taken for him ; and he wanted to find out if I 
could write, and what my writing was like.' 

* Clever chap ! • Did you say he hurt you ? ' 
' I expect he did.' 
The convicts laugh. 

* Did you write after all ? ' 

* Oh, I just scratched the paper all over with my 
pen, and then he let me go, naturally. He boxed 
my ears first, and then sent me to gaol.' 

* Can you write ? ' 
^ I used to be able to write a little once ; but I 

have forgotten now, since people have been writing^ 
with steel pens.' 



With similar conversations we beguiled those 
long, endless days, every one of which was the exact 
counterpart of the other. If only we might have 
had books to read I Ikit if the days seemed endless, 
the nights were worse still. '^Ve all went to bed 
early. A night-light burns dimly by the door, and 
looks like a bright spot in the darkness. The air 
begins to get oppressive. Sometimes a patient cannot 
sleep, and, after tossing about for awhile, he gets up 
and sits on his bed for an hour or more, resting his 
night-capped head on his hand as if he were absorbed 
in thought. I used to watch such patients sometimes 
for hours together, wondering what they could be 
thinking about. At other times I would remember 
my past life. Little details which I would probably 
never have thought of at other times rose before my 
mind^s eye almost with painful vividness. Or my 
thoughts would stray away into the future. When 
should I leave the prison ? How ? And where would 
I go to then? Would I ever go back to my old 
home? And sometimes a faint ray of hope would 
dawn in my soul. At other times I tried to send 
myself to sleep by counting one, two, three; and 
many a time have I counted up to three thousand 
before I fell asleep. At last some one is moving rest- 
lessly on his bed. Oustyanzeff is coughing, poor 
fellow. I can hear him moan with the pain, and say, 
* Oh, Lord, I have sinned ! ' How strange bis plain- 
tive voice sounds in the dark, quiet night ! Two men 
are talking together in that comer ; one of them i» 
telling the other about his past life^ his wanderings^ 
his wife and children, and the good old times. And 



«s you listen to the distant whisper you cannot help 
feeling that he is talking about times and things 
which will never come back to him any more, and 
that he himself is an outcast. The other listens im- 
passively. All you can hear is the soft monotonous 
sound, like the murmur of the ^vater on the distant 

Once during a long winter's night I heard one of 
these tales, and while I was listening to it I felt as 
if I were in a dream — ^a feverish dream. ^ 

-.--;> «'.-:'. ' 



.: t 






ako(jl'ka's husband (a tale). 

One night, it may have been about midnight, I had 
been asleep for some time, and woke up suddenly. 
Nearly all the patients were asleep ; the ward was 
dimly lighted by a small night-light, which stood on 
a table at the furthest end of the room. I could 
hear in the distance the heavy steps of the soldiers 
who were coming down the passage to relieve the 
guard at our door, and a moment after the butt-ends 
of their guns striking against the floor. Presently 
the door of the ward was cautiously opened, and the 
corporal entered on tiptoe to count the patients and 
see that everybody was in his proper place. The 
door >¥as bolted again, a new guard placed before it, 
and the steps of the soldiers grew fainter as they 
marched down the long passage. Silence reigned 
once more. 

. Suddenly my attention was attracted by the 
sound of whispering not far from me, as of two 
people talking together in undertones. Sometimes 
people will lie side by side for days, even months, 
without ever exchanging a word, when all at once in 
the stillness of the night their tongues are loosed. 



and each will tell the other the story of his life. 
These two had evidently been talking for some time, 
so that I lost the beginning of their conversation. 
I could at first only catch a word here and there; 
but as my ear grew more accustomed to their subdued 
tones I heard the end of the story. Was it wrong in 
me to listen ? I coidd not sleep ; and what else was 
there for me to do in the long dull hours of the 
night ? One of them had half raised himself on his 
elbow ; he wa? talking in a wild, excited way, looking 
eagerly into his hearer's face. The other was sitting 
up in his bed, and evidently only listening because 
he could not help it, judging from the bored expres- 
sion of his face. From time to time he uttered a 
low growl of assent or sympathy, solacing himself at 
intervals with frequent pinches of snuff, which he 
took from a horn snuff-box. He was a military 
prisoner from the reformatory battalion, called 
Tcherevin, a disagreeable pedantic fellow and a 
terrible controversialist. The narrator's name was 
Shishkoff ; he was a tailor by trade, about thirty years 
old. I had paid but little attention to him hitherto, 
as he had failed to interest me. He was an empty- 
headed, capricious fellow, who would sometimes not 
speak a word for weeks together, then suddenly, 
without any apparent reason, grow exceedingly talka- 
tive and restless ; rush about in the prison, tale-bearing, 
gossiping, quarrelling, and working himself up to such 
a pitch of excitement that he hardly knew what he 
did, till he got a sound beating for his pains, when 
be subsided again into one of his silent moods. He 
was below middle stature, with a strange, restless 




look in his eyes. I have known him frequently begin 
tx) talk about something, or relate something or 
other, grow even excited about it, then suddenly 
break off or forget what he was talking about and 
begin to speak of something quite different, which 
had not the least reference to what he had been 

At first I could not make out what he was talking 
about ; he seemed to me to be as usual always stray- 
ing from his subject. Perhaps he was a little 
annoved at Tcherevin's indifference, and tried to 
persuade himself that he was listening to him after 

* When he went to market,' he was saying, * every- 
body took off his hat to him and bowed low, for he 
was rich.' 

' Did you say he was a tradesman ? * 

* Yes. You see, ours is a very poor country — oh, 

very poor ! The women have to fetch the water a 

great way from the river, and work hard day and 

night in their kitchen-garden ; and then they don't 

even grow cabbage enough for shtshi in winter. 

Well, as I was saying, he was a rich man, and had a 

farm and three labourers to work it, and a goodish 

bit of wood, and sold cattle and honey, and made a 

mint of money, and was much respected in our town. 

He was very old, about seventy or so ; a large, tall 

man, with a long grey beard and grey hair. When 

he went out in his fur coat, lined with foxskin, they 

all took off their hats to him, saying, " How do you 

do, Father Aukoudim Trofimytch ? " « Thank you," 

he would reply. You see he was always polite to 

T 2 



every one. ** Jlay you live many years, Ankoudim 
Trofimytch." **How are you getting on in the 
world? "he would ask. "Times are hard, father; 
we are getting on poorly enough — and you? '^ " Pretty 
well)" says he ; " but the smoke of our sins rises to- 
heaven and darkens the sun." ** May you live many 
years, Ankoudim Trofimytch." He was always kind 
and polite, and spoke slowly, as if each word were a 
rouble and had to be considered before it could be 
given away. He could read and write, and was 
alwajrs reading his Bible. He would sometimes call 
his wife, teU her to sit down and listen, and explain 
the Scriptures to her. She was his second wife ; he had 
married her because he had had no children from hi& 
first wife. Mdrya Step&novna had two sons — the 
younger, Vassya, was bom when his father was sixty 
years old — and a daughter, Akoulina, who was then 
eighteen. She was their eldest child.' 

* That's your wife.' 

* Wait a bit. FilkaMor6soff comes in first. He 
says to Ankoudim, says Filka, " Give me my four 
hundred roubles. I am not your servant, thait you 
should be higgling and haggling with me and tellings 
me to work, and I don't care to marry your Akoulinar 
My parents are both dead, and I am a rich man now, 
^nd when I have spent all my money I shall enlist 
as a soldier, and come back to you in ten years as 
field-marshal general.'' His iather and Ankoudim 
had been partners, you see, and he claimed his share 
of the capitaL " Take care, you will come to a bad 
end," says the old man. "That's none of your 
business, you grey-haired dotard," says Filka. " I 

akotJl'ka's husband. 


am not such a miser as you. Why, you would like 
to eat milk with a needle if you could," says he ; " and 
you are gathering up the dirt in the street to see if 
you can't make it do for k^sha. I tell you, you save 
money to buy the devil with. And when you see me 
marrying your AkouFka, you'll know it. Why she 
has been my mistress all this time ! " " How dare 
you dishonour an honest father and his daughter ? '^ 
says Ankoudim, trembling with rage. ** When did 
she become your mistress, you blood of a dog, you 
fat of a snake ? " — You see, Filka told me the whole 
story himself. — "Don't you call me names," says 
Filka, " or I'll take care that she gets no husband at 
all. Nobody will want to marry her now, not even 
Mikita Grigorytch. She has been my mistress since 
last autumn ; and I should not take her now, not if 
you paid me a hundred roubles on the spot." 

•^ Well, the lad did lead a gay life, as he had said 
he would. He had no end of friends, and in three 
months all his money was clean gone. He would 
laugh and say : *' When my money's gone I shall 
sell my house and all I have, and when that's gone I 
shall enlist or turn vagabond." He was drunk from 
morning till night, and would drive about in a 
telega with two horses and such sweet bells. All the 
wenches fell in love with him. He also played well 
on the torba.' 

' Was it all true about Akoulfna ? ' 

* Stop a bit, and you'll see. My father had just 
died about that time, and we were left very badly ofiF. 
My mother did chores for Ankoudim, and made 
gingerbread for sale, and tried to earn something one^ 


way or the other. We had had a bit of land on the ^ 
other side of the wood which my father had left us, ^ 
but we sold it, brother, for I wanted to lead a gay 
life too. The old woman thought at first she would 
not let me have any tin, but I beat her till she did.* , 

* You did very wrong ; it is a great sin to beat / 
one's mother.* 

^I used to drink from morning till night, my 
brother. Our house was so old and rotten that I 
expected every day it would come tumbling about 
our ears, and the walls were so full of holes that 
vou misrht have hunted a hare in the rooms. Not 
a pleasant place to live in at any time, and still 
less so when one*s belly is empty and calling out for 
food. I was so hungry sometimes that I could have 
eaten rags, and been thankful for that. Then there 
was the old woman ; she kept a-nagging, nagging at 
me for being idle, till she drove me clean out of the 
house, and where should I go to but to Filka 
Moroeoff. He used to lie on his bed and say to me, 
*^ Play on the guitar and dance before me, and I will 
throw money at you, for I am a rich man now.** Oh 
dear, oh dear, what a time we had together; 
and what tricks he played I But he never would 
have anything to do with stolen things, ** for," says 
he, ^' I am no thief, but an honest man." One day 
he says to me : *^ Let us go and' tar the gates ' of 
Akoul*ka*s house, for I do not want her to marry 
Mikita Grigorytch." Ton see, her father had wanted 
to many her to Mikita Grrigorytch — he was an old 

* Tarring the gates it the greatest inevlt irhich can be done to 
a woman among the lover daflsee. 



man too, and wore spectacles, and kept a shop ; but 
when he heard what was being said about her, he 
drew back, and said tx> her father that such a mar- 
riage would only dishonour him, and that, besides, he 
was really too old to think of marrying at his time 
of life. So we went and tarred the gates of her 
house. They made a fine row about it, I tell you t 
M^rya Stepdnovna would have killed her on the spot 
if she could, and the old man said : ^^ In the times 
of the old patriarchs I would have cut her to pieces 
with my own hands and burnt her body to ashes; 
but nowadays the world is full of sin and darkness.*' 
The girl was whipped morning, noon, and night ; 
and the people in the next street could hear her 
screams. Fildtka didn't hold his tongue either, but 
would wink and say : " She's a nice girl, Akoulina 
is. I know her, and her clean white frocks I They'll 
not forget me in a hurry," says he. One day I met 
Akoulina ; she had been down to the river to fetch 
water, and was coming up the riverside with two 
pails. I called out : " Good morning to you, 
Akoulina Koudimovna. Allow me to present my 
respects to your honour. May I ask who is the lover 
now ? " That was all I said, and she never answered 
me, but looked at me with her large sad eyes — they 
looked much larger than they were in reality, for she 
had grown terribly thin of late. Her mother, who 
was watching her from the doorway, thought that she 
was flirting with me when she saw her look at me, 
and cried, ^^ What are you grinning at him for, you 
shameless hussy ; " and fell to beating her again* 
Why, I have heard that she used to beat her for ai^ 


hour by the time, and say, *<I should h'ke to kill 
her — she is no longer daughter of mine." ' 

' I dare say she deserved it?' 

^ Wait a bit, grandfather, and you will see. One 
day I was lying on the stove when my mother came 
into the room, and began to scold me as usual. ^^ What 
' are you lying down for, you ruffian, you blackguard ? 
Why don^t you marry Akoulfna ? They will be only , 
too glad to give her to you, and pay you three hun- 
dred roubles into the bargain." ** Why," says I, 
** don't you know that she is a bad woman ? " ^^ You 
are a fool," says she ; ^* it will all be forgotten when 
she is your wife. Besides, if she really is what people 
say about her, why, the better it is for you. We have 
been talking it over with M4rya Step4novna, and she 
is not at all opposed to the marriage." " Very well," 
says I; *^tell the old man to pay me down fifty 
roubles this very moment, and I don't care if I marry 
her afterwards." I got the money, and I don't think 
I was sober for one hour till my wedding-day. Then 
there was that brute of a Filka Mordso£f always threat- 
ening me, and saying, *' You are to be Akoul'ka's 
husband. Take care, I shall break every bone in your 
body I " Says I to him, " You Ue, you dog's-flesh 1 " 
Then he called me such names in the street that I 
came home mad with anger, and told the old woman 
that I would not marry her unless they gave me 
fifty roubles more.' 

^ So they did not mind your marrying her ? ' J 

* Bless you, not they ! We were as good as they — 
my &ther had been even richer than Ankoudim, only 
he lost nearly all he had in a fire, and never recovered 

akoiJl'ka'8 husband. 281 

from the blow. Says Ankoudim to me, '* Why, you 
are as poor as church mice." Says I to him, " Just 
so ; we cannot afford to waste tar on our gates." 
Says he, " Don't crow over us yet till you have 
proofs sufficient that she is not an honest girl. You 
oannut stop every mouth with a kerchief." ** Look 
here," says he ; " here is God ' and here is the 
threshold — you are not obliged to marry her if you 
don't want to do it ; but first give me back my money." 
Then I sent ]Mitry Buykoff to F'ilatka to tell him that 
he would be sorry for what he had done, and never left 
off drinking till my wedding-day, when I just had 
enough of my wits left to get married. When we 
came home from church we all sat down at the table, 
and Mitrofan Stepdnytch — that is, her uncle — said to 
me : " You have not married an honest woman, but I 
hope she will make you a good wife, and it will be all 
right now." Ankoudim was also drimk, and burst out 
crying; and there he sat, with the tears running 
down his beard. Well, brother, I had put a whip in 
my pocket before I went to church, thinking that I 
would show the people, and her too, who was the 

* Quite right. It's always better to settle those 
matters beforehand.' 

* Hold your tongue, grandfather. It is the cus- 
tom in our place to leave the newly-married couple 
by themselves in a little room, while the rest drink 
in the large room. So we were left alone, Akoulina 
and I. She sat down, as pale as death. Her hair 

> The ikona, or image of a saint, is often called God. The 
phrase means, * Yon may either stay or go, at your pleasure/ 



was as white as flax, and she looked at me with her 
large eyes without speaking. She always spoke very 
little, so little that one might think she was dumb. 
I never could make out why I pulled the whip out 
of my pocket and laid it on the bed ; but just fancy, 
brother, she was innocent after all ! ' 

* You don't say so?' 

< She was, brother mine. And that poor girl had 
snffered and been tormented, and been innocent all 
the time. Why did Fildtka dishonour and insult lier 
before all the world ? ' 


* I knelt down before her, folded my hands and 
said : ^^ Mother Akoulma Koudfmovna, can you forgive 
me for being such a fool and believing what they 
said about you ? " There she sat on the bed, looking 
me full in the face ; and at last she put her arms 
round my neck and laughed and cried with joy. I 
rushed into the next room shouting, *^ Fildtka Moro- 
soff had better keep out of my way now,' or he may 
find his days very much shortened upon earth." The 
old people were quite aghast at the news — the mother 
nearly fell down at her feet, and such a wail as she 
struck up ! The old man said, ^^ If had known that 
before, we would have found you a better husband, 
my beloved daughter." And when we went to church 
the next Sunday — I in my fur cap and a new kaftan 
of the finest broadcloth and velveteen sharov&ry,^ and 
she in her new jacket lined with hareskin, with a silk 
handkerchief on her head — ^I tell you the people in 
the street stopped to look at us. I was not bad-look- 

' Wide teovMn, gtthend at the bottom, and worn in top-booto. 


akoiJl'ka's husband. 285- 

ing, and though there were better-looking womeii 
than Akoiilina, she was handsome enough.' 

* Yes.' 

* Now listen. The day after the wedding I stole 
out of the house and ran down the street, shouting, 
** Where is that blackguard, Filka Morosoff ? Let me 
speak to him, let me see him — the scoundrel ! *' I 
was drunk, you see. They caught me at last, and 
took me home, not without some trouble, I tell you. 
The news spread in the town that Akoul'ka had been 
innocent after all. One day whom should I meet but 
Filka Morosoff, with a lot of his friends. " Why don't 
you sell your wife, and buy brandy with money ? " says 
he. '* I know a soldier who did it, and was drunk 
for three years." Says I to him, " You are a black- 
guard." Says he to me, " And you are a fool. How 
can you tell if she was innocent or not, when you 
were drunk on your wedding-day ? " I went straight 
to them and told them that they had made me drunk 
on purpose. My mother tried to kick up a row, but I 
pushed her out of my way, and said, " Your ears are 
stuffed with gold, mother! Where is Akoul'ka ? " And 
I beat her for two whole hours till I was too tired to 
lift my arm. She lay in bed after that for three 

' Just so,' remarked Tcherevin coolly. * A wife 
will never turn out well unless you beat her. But 
did you ever find her with her lover ?' 

*N — ^n — ^nol' replied Shishk6ff after a pause^ 
slowly and with an effort. ^But I had become 
quite a by-word in the place, and all through that 
accursed Filka. He used to say to me, ** You have 



.got a pattern of a wife, and you ought to exhibit her 
in public that all might admire her.*' One day he 
gave a great feast, and asked me to it. All at once 
he gets up and says : ^^ His wife is so good and kind 
to everybody, and so well-behaved and ready to 
-oblige. Have you forgotten, old boy, how you helped 
me to tar her gate, one fine night ? ^ Then he came up 
to me and took me by the hair, and nearly bowed me 
down to the ground, saying, *^ Dance now, Akoiirka's 
husband, dance while I hold you by the hair, just to 
please me." ^^ You are a scoundrel," cries I. And 
he says, ^' I shall take all my friends and come to 
your house and whip your vrife, Akoul'ka, in their 
presence and yours.** Then — would you believe me? — 
I never stirred from home for a whole month after that, 
for fear that he might carry out his threat and dis- 
honour me ? And so I began to beat her.' 

* '\^Tiat did you beat her for ? You can tie 
people's hands, but not their tongues. It's no good to 
be always beating and beating. When you have 
beaten your wife once, you must be kind to her after- 
wards. That's what she is your wife for.' 

Shishk6ff was silent for a few moments. 

^ You see,' said he, after awhile, ^ I had got some- 
bow or other in the way of beating her. Some days 
I would keep at it from morning till night. I did not 
know what to do with myself when I was not a-beat- 
ing of her. She used to be sitting in her comex by 
the window, crying softly to herself^ and never say- 
ing a word. I could not help feeling sorry for her, 
and so I beat her I My mother, she tried to stop me 
by scolding, but she noade matters only worse. ^ I 


have a right to kill her if I choose," says I ; " and you 
just hold your tongue, for I have been shamefully ill« 
used when you made me marry her." At first old 
Ankoudim took her part, and threatened me with the 
law and what not ; but, bless his soul, I soon put a 
stop to his coming to my house. Mdrya Stepdnovna 
was as meek as a lamb. One day she came to me all 
in tears, and bowed to the ground, and begged me 
to be kind to her daughter, saying : " Listen to my 
prayer, Ivan Semenytch ; it is a small thing I ask of 
you, but a great thing for me. Let her see the light 
once more, my father ; have pity on her — forgive her. 
You know yourself she was an honest woman when 
you married her.'* " No," says I ; *' I will not hear 
another word." ** I am your lord and master," says 
I, " and I can do with you whatever I please, or 
rather what Filka IMorosoff pleases, for he is my best 
friend," says I.' 

* So you got intimate again ? ' 

* Bless your eyes, no I Nobody was good enough 
for him now. He had squandered all his money and 
property and enlisted. That is to say, he had not en- 
listed, properly speaking, but a wealthy tradesman in 
the place had paid him a large sum to go as a sub- 
stitute for his son, who ought to have gone. It is 
the custom with us for the substitute to live in the 
house of the mian who has hired him till he joins his 
regiment ; and he is the lord and master there. The 
money is paid down at once, and a fine life he leads 
his people sometimes I can tell you — living in the 
man's house for six months or so, and turning every- 
thing upside down, so that you might carry the 



saints* away. For, you see, he is considered the 
benefactor of the family ; and if they won*t do what 
he wants them to do, he just says, ^^ I won't go in 
yoiu: son's stead." Well, Fildtka did his best to turn 
everything upside down ; pulling the master of the 
house by the beard after dinner every day, and ordering 
them all about right and left. He had a bath every 
day, and made them throw brandy on the hot stones 
instead of water ; and all the women in the house had 
to carry him into the bath-room in their arms. One 
day he had been drinking with some friends, and 
when he came home he stopped in the street in front 
of their house and shouted, ** Pull the fence down-; 
I will not go in through the gate.** So they had to 
make an opening in the fence to get him in. At 
last the time came for him to join his regiment. All 
the people ran out into the street to see Fildtka 
MorosofF leave the town. There he sat in his telega, 
bowing right and left. Akoulina happened to be 
coming out of our kitchen>garden just as he was pass- 
ing through our street and by oiur house. " Stopl** 
shouted he, and jumping down from the telega, he 
bowed to the ground before her and said, " My soul, 
my red berry, I have loved you these two years, and 
now I am going away to my regiment. Forgive me 
all the harm I have done you, virtuous daughter of a 
\irtuous father. I am a miserable wretch ! " And 
he bowed again to the ground. Akoul'ka seemed 
startled at first, but she soon recovered, and said, 
bowing low, ** Forgive me also if I have done any- 

I 1.6., the ikftoas, who ought not to look upon his diagraeefiil 



• . 


thing to harm you. I bear you no grudge." I ran 
after her into the isba. " What did you say to him, 
you flesh of a dog ? " And — would you believe it ? — 
she looked me full in the face, and said, ** Yes, I love 
him better than all the world ! " ' 

*0h, oh!' 

* I did not speak to her again that day till night- 
fall, when I said to her, " Akourka, I will kill you 1 " 
I did not sleep a wink that night, and got up to- 
wards morning and went into the passiige to drink 
somekvas. The day was dawning; I went back into 
the room and said to her, " Akoul'ka, get yourself 
ready and come with me to our field." I had spoken 
before of my intention of going there, and my mother 
knew all about it. " I am glad you are going to look 
after things a little,'* says she. " It's reaping-time, and 
I hear the labourer has been in bed for the last three 
days." I got the telega ready without saying a word. 
You must know that our town is built near a big 
pine wood, about fifteen versts long, and our field was 
on the other side of the wood. When we had driven 
for about three versts through the wood, I stopped 
the horse, and said to my wife, ** Get out, Akoiirka, 
your last hour has come." She obeyed, trembling 
with terror, and stood there before me without 
saying a word. " I am sick and tired of you," said I ; 
*' say your prayers." She had beautiful thick hair ; I 
grasped her plaits, and wound them round and round 
my hand, and pulled her down, took her between 
my knees, bent her head back, and drew the knife 
across her throat. When I heard her shriek and saw 
the red blood gush out of the wound, I threw down 


X ^ 


my knife, laid her on the ground, put my arms 
round her, and there we lay — I wailing and weeping, 
and she shrieking and struggling to get away from; 
me, while her warm blood was flowing over my hands 
and face. At last I got so frightened that I got up 
and ran away, and never stopped running till I got 
home, and there I hid myself in our old bath-house. 
It was a ruined place, and nobody came near it now. 
There I crept under a shelf and sat there till night/ 

* And Akoul'ka ? ' 

^ It seems that she got up and tried to go home 
after I left her, but never got there after all, for they 
found her not far from the place where ' 

^ So you did not kill her quite ? * 

' Yes: Shishk6ff hesitated. 

* There is a certain vein,' remarked Tcherevin,. 
and they say that if you don't cut it through at once 
the person will never die, even if they should lose 
every drop of blood in their body.' 

^ But she did die ; they found her dead at night.. 
The police were informed of it, and they searched for 
me and found me in the bath-house. I have been 
here four years,' he added, after a pause. 

* ITm, no woman ever turns out well except you 
beat her,' remarked Tcherevin coolly, helping himself 
to another pinch of snuff. ^ After all, my friend^ 
continued he, ^ you made a fool of yourself. I re^ 
member once finding my wife with her lover. So I 
took a thick leather tiiong, and called her into the 
banx and beat her, asking her at every stroke to whom 
she had sworn to be true wh«:i she was married, till 
she cried out, **^ I will wash your feet and drink the 
water." Her name was Avdotya.' 

^ * 

•' -Ih.- 




April bad come with its warm sunny days and a 
sweet perfume of spring in the air. We were within 
a week or two of Easter. I have frequently noticed 
the peculiarly irritating and exciting effect which 
spring weather has on prisoners. It seems as if the 
memory of the old times when they too were free 
like the bird who sings over their heads in the blue 
sky, is more vivid within their souls on a warm spring 
day than on a bleak and dreary day in autumn and 
winter. Yet they look forward to the fine days 
eagerly, only to grow more restless and impatient 
when they have come at last. Even the more peace- 
able and patient convicts, who seldom grumbled with 
their lot and quarrelled with their comrades, seemed 
to find the restraint which life in a prison must ' 
necessarily impose more irksome at such seasons than 
at any other times. Hardly a day passed without 
brawls or quarrels ; at times the prison seemed to 
have been tiuned into a Bedlam. Many a time 
when we were out at work on the banks of the 
Irtysh have I watched some poor fellow looking 
wistfully across the river towards the immense 
Kirghise steppe, which begins on the other bank and 



stretches far awaj towards the south — ^further than the 
eye can reach. Many a time have I seen their breasts 
lieaving and heard a deep sigh, as if they too longed 
to breathe once more the free air of the steppe. 
* Ekhma ! * ' sighs the convict prisoner ; and with a 
sudden movement, as if he wanted to shake off the 
thoughts and dreams which trouble him, he thrusts 
his spade deep into the earth or snatches up the load 
of bricks which lies by his side ready to be carried 

How heavy the chains seem on such days ! This 
is the time when not only in Siberia but all over 
Russia also, those who are known as Grod's people 
escape from their gloomy dungeons and hide them* 
selves in the woods and forests. The long dreary 
winter-time lies behind them, and they wander about 
the land eating and drinking what they find, what it 
pleases Ood to send them, and at night lying down 
to sleep in the fields or woods, looking up to the 
bright stars above them, without care for the morrow, 
like the birds of the forest Yet those who want to 
enlist in the army of Greneral Kouckoushkine must 
make up their minds to rough it occasionally. Food 
is often very scanty — sometimes they have to go 
without for days altogether ; then there is the con- 
stant danger of being discovered and brought back 
to the prison ; and, tortured by hunger and fear, they 
will often rob, steal, and even murder. There is a 
Siberian proverb which says, * The convict is like a 
baby — he cries (or what he sees.' 
f There are some men who are bom tramps. I 

* An inteijection. 






liave frequently heard of convicts who, after their » 
term of imprisonment had expired, had been com- ■■ 
fortably settled for five or six years in a convict j 
colony, got married and had several children, / 
disappearing one fine morning, to the grief of I 
their family and the amazement of their neigh- i 
hours. Their heart yearns for the wild, lonely : 
life in the Siberian forests ; it is to them the em- • 
bodiment of earthly happiness, for it is a free life. 
There was one such tramp in our prison. He had 
spent his whole life wandering about from one end 
of Russia to the other, and escaping from prison. I 
think he had been as far south as the Danube and 
the Caucasian mountains, and as far east as Eastern 
Siberia, not far from Okhotzk. Perhaps if he had 
lived in different circumstances he might have turned 
out a second Robinson Crusoe. I never heard that 
he had committed any crime, and am quite at a loss 
to say why he should have been sent to a convict 
prison. He was a small, wiry man, about fifty yeai-s 
old I should think, with a remarkably placid — I 
might almost say stolid -face. In summer-time he 
liked to bask in the sun, singing softly to himself. He 
spoke very little, and ate still less, living principally 
on bread. I do not think that he ever bought a 
kalatch or a glass of liquor in all his life, for he 
never seemed to have a copeck in his pocket, and 
besides, if he had had money, I do not think he 
conld have counted it. Nothing ever seemed to ex- 
cite him or put him out of temper. He was the 
only one beside myself who fed our prison dogs, for 
dogs are reputed unclean in Russia, and a Russian 

u 2 



peasant would do more feed a dog from his hand than 
he would eat a hare. The man told me that he had 
been married twice, and had children in some remote 
Fpot in Russia. It was generally thought that he 
would run away again ere long, and everybody was 
wondering how he would manage it this time ; but 
he either felt that he was too old to expose himself 
to the hardships of a vagrant life, or else his time 
had not yet come, and he went on living quietly in 
the new sphere in which it had pleased Providence 
to place him. There are but few who, having once 
made up their mind to escape, are able to carry out 
their design — perhaps not one in a hundred — ^yet the 
other ninety-nine solace themselves in their captivity 
by imagining ^'ariou8 ways of escaping, and thinking 
of all the place*: where they might have been in 
safety if they only could have got there. But those 
who have served perhaps once or twice in Greneral 
Koucoushkine^s army remember that time with mixed 
pride and regret, and live over in memory every 
moment of that wild life of freedom. The technical 
term for escaping is, in prison slang, ^to change 
one's lot in life.* It is a remarkably well-chosen one, 
for the convict knows when he makes up his mind 
to escape that he will never, or hardly ever, retain 
the freedom which he may succeed in obtaining for 
a time at least. The chances are ten to one that he 
will be caught, and perhaps be sentenced to another 
long term of penal servitude if during his wanderings 
he has been guilty of some fresh crime ; but he hopes 
that wherever he may be sent it may be a new prison 
or colony, as by this time he has grown heartily tired 


of the old one. And a new prison is rather a pleasant 
change after all. It is by no means an unusual siglit 
to see crowds of these runaways come back to tlie 
towns wlien the cold weather sets in, and ask to be 
admitted to the gaols, if they have not succeeded on 
their wanderings in finding a place where they may 
winter in safety. They cheerfully spend the cold 
season in gaol, hoping to escape again when the 
warm weather comes. 

We had been divided into seven groups of thirty 
mien each, according to the number of weeks in Lent^ 
and each group regularly attended daily services for 
a whole week, as is the custom in the Greek Church 
previous to taking the holy communion. My turn 
came in the sixth week. We did not go out to 
work, but attended service two or three times daily 
in a church which was not very far from the prison. 
I had not been inside a church for a long time, and 
the Lenten Service, with its solemn prayers and the 
beautiful ceremonies by which the Greek Church 
prepares its faithful believers to meet the glad Easter- 
tide, seemed to take me back to my boyhood and my 
old home, and evoked a host of old memories in my 
beart. I liked the walk to church in the early 
morning when the ground was crisp and hard with 
last night's frost. Our escort never came into the 
church with us, but remained outside. We always 
stood near the door at the furthermost end of the 
building, where we could occasionally catch a glimpse 
of the priest's black robe or his bald head, and hear 
the voice of the deacon repeating, the prayers. I 
remembered how when I was a boy I had bked to 



watch the poor people who were huddled together at 
the church door give way respectfully to some stout 
geutleman or a well-dressed pious lady. I used 
to think that poor people prayed in altogether a 
different manner from what we did. They seemed 
to bow down to the ground more frequently, and to 
pray with more humility and fervour than we, as if 
they were conscious of their lowliness. Little did I 
think then that it would be my fate one day to stand 
in those places — aye, in still lower places than they 
ever stood in, for they were honest people and we 
were felons in chains, from whom the people recoiled 
instinctively as they passed by us. I always had a 
strange pleasure in accepting the alms which charit- 
aUe souls bestowed freely upon us. The convicts 
prayed with great fervour, and never foiled to bring 
their mite to buy a taper with, or to put it into the 
church fund. Perhaps in doing so they said to 
themselves, ^I, too, am a human being still, and 
after all we are all alike in God's eyes ! ' We took 
the ocxnmunion at early service. When the priest, 
holding the cup in his hand, spoke the words, ^ but 
they received me as a robber,' all the men prostrated 
themselves, as if those words had been addressed to 

Easter Day was a repetition of Christmas Day, ex- 
cept that we had an egg and a slice of wheaten bread 
apiece allotted us over and above our usual meals, and 
that the day was warm and bright, so that instead of 
sitting in a stifling hot room we sat out in the yard. 
Loads of bread and other eatables were again sent 
from the town, the priest and the Grovemor paid their 

I--.- . 

-customary visits, the shtshi was remarkably good, 
and the convicts got drunk, and fought and quarrelled 
■with each other. 

Diu-ing the summer-time the men were princi- 
pally employed in building, or in painting, white- 
washing, and cleaning the Grovernment buildings in 
the town. The worst workmen, and the convicts who 
knew no trade, were sent to the brick-kiln to make 
bricks. This was considered the hardest work. The 
brick-kiln was three or four versts distant from 
the fortress, and every morning a pai-ty of fifty or 
more convicts used to start for the kiln at 6 a.m. 
They took some bread with them, as it would have 
taken too much time to come home for dinner, and 
did not dine till late at night, when they returned 
from their work tired and exhausted with their labour. 
They always made a point of telling us that they 
wiere the hardest-worked men in the prison ; never- 
theless, they seemed rather to like going to the kilns, 
as they were situated on the banks of the Iitysh, at 
some distance from the town, where they could 
breathe the fresh air and smoke freely, and occasion- 
ally lie down on the grass for half an hour or so and 
take a nap. I worked either in the turner's shop, as 
before, or ground alabaster, and was occasionally 
employed in carrying bricks. I liked this kind of 
work, because I found that it developed my muscular 
power. I began by carrying eight bricks, weighing 
12 lbs. each, across the rampart to a building which 
was about two hundred feet distant from the kiln, but 
gradually got so strong as to be able to carry twelve 
bricks at a time. I have said that I liked carrying 



farieks because I found that the exercise did me good ; 
but the principal reason for my liking this work, such as 
it was, was that the kilns were situated, as I have said 
before, on the banks of the Irtjsh. I frequently men- 
tion this spot, because it was the only place where we 
might turn our back on the prison, and for the moment 
forget that it had ever existed. How 1 hated the very 
sight of the prison and the buildings which surrounded 
it, especially the house where our JVIajor lived, and 
which to me was an accursed spot. The banks of the 
river were the only place where I could forget my 
misery, and gaze upon the immeasurable desert. Every 
object seemed precious to me ; the warm, bright sun 
in the deep blue sky, and the distant song of the Kir- 
ghise which was wafted to iis from the opposite bank* 
Sometimes I could see a light cloud of smoke rising 
slowly in the air, and distinguish the miserable hut of 
some nomad of the steppe, and a woman watching a 
couple of sheep near it. Presently a bird would fly 
up in the clear transparent air, then, sinking rapidly, 
skim along the surface of the water to dip its wings 
in it, rise again, and disappear in the blue sky. How 
wistfully I watched its flight till I could hardly dis- 
tinguish the black speck. Even a poor little flower, 
which I found one day in early spring in a crevice of 
a stone on the banks of my beloved river, had a pecu> 
liar interest for me. Oh I the bitter grief and the 
loneliness of my first summer in the prison ! I shall 
never, never forget it I 

The evenings were lovely when the sun, which 
had been shining on the yard all day long, set at last^ 
and the short, cool night of the steppe came on. The 




men either lounged about in the yard, enjoying the 
cool of the evening, or else assembled in thei kitchen 
to gossip or talk over the events of the day. * One day 
suddenly the rumour spread that our Major was going 
to be discharged. Convicts are like children, they 
will believe almost anything tliat is told them ; and 
although the news had been brought by Kvassoff, 
who had the reputation of being the greatest gossip 
and blockhead in the prison, and who told a lie every 
time he opened his mouth, they discussed it eagerly, 
till thev felt vexed witli themselves and each other 
for having believed it. 

' I should like to see the man who will put him 
down,' cries one. ' His back is broad enough ; he'll 
weather any storm, I warrant you.' 

' But there are bigger chaps than he in this 
world, I dare say,' replies another, a smart young 
Hotspur, who has seen something of the world, 
and who is the greatest arguer the world has ever 

* Birds of a feather,' remarks in an undertone 
a third, a grey-haired old man who is eating shtshi 
in a corner by himself. 

' I suppose you expect those bigger chaps to come 
and ask your advice whether they had better remove 
him or not ? ' asks a fourth, running his fingers along 
the strings of his balalaika. 

* And why should they not, pray ? ' retorts young 
Hotspur, angrily. * Instead of squabbling about it 
now and then, drawing back when the time comes to 
act, you had better all stand up and say your say if 
they should ask us.' 



* And get into a scrape,' quietly remarks the man 
with the balalaika. 

* The other day ' — continued Hotspur, not heeding 
the interruption — ^ the other day we had saved a little 
flour — scraped it together, my brethren, every particle 
of it. Twas our own, and we wanted to sell it. Of 
course he heard all about it directly — ^the art^l'sht-, 
shik told him — ^and he took it away. I should like 
to know what von call this. Was he right or wrong ? * 

* It can't be helped.' 

^ Can't \ye helped ! I tell you I shall complain to 
the Government Inspector, and then you will see if 
it can't be helped.' 

* ^Tiat's that about a Government Inspector ? ' 

* He is quite right, boys. There is a Government 
Inspector coming to look after things a bit,' remarks 
another young fellow, who was much respected by 
the rest for his shrewdness and literary tastes. He 
had received a tolerable education, been clerk in 
some government office, and had read the ^ Duchess 
of Lavalli^re ' and similar books. A perfect storm of 
questions and exclamations broke out ; but he pre- 
tended not to notice it, and turning to the cook 
asked him coolly if he had any liver left. Our cooks 
frequently used to buy a large piece of liver or some 
other delicacy of that kind, roast it, and cut it up 
into small pieces, which they sold to the convicts. 

< How much do you want ? ' asks the cook. ^ For 
a grosh or for two groshes ? ' 

' For two ; that will make other people's mouths 
water,' answered the convict. < It is quite true, boys ; 
a general is coming all the way from St. Petersbuig 




to make a toiir of inspection through Siberia, I 
fae^rd it myself from the Commandant's servants.' 

This intellij^ence creates great excitement. Every- 
body wants to know who it is. and whether it is a real 
general * or not ; and if so, if he is a more important 
personage than our generals. Convicts take a great 
interest in their superiors, and will often quarrel about 
who is of the higher rank or who has the gi'eater 
influence. They pride themselves in showing off 
their knowledue of the world and tlie minute dif- 
ferences of rank and station, as a convict who talks 
glibly about gciuerals, officers, and decorations is 
considered as having moved in good society before 
he became a prisoner. 

* Then it is true, after all, brothers, tliat we are 
to have a new governor,' remarks Kvassoff, who had 
been the first to bring the news about the impending 
change. He is a short, red-faced man, easily excited 
and rather stupid. 

'He'll bribe him,' remarks the gloomy grey- 
haired convict from his comer. He has finished his 
shtshi by this time. 

' Won't he, though ! ' says another. * He has stolen 
money enough to go and bribe a general now. They 
say he proposed to the protopop*s daughter.' 

*But they wouldn't have him — he is not rich 
enough for them. Bless you, he carries all his for- 
tune on his back. He's gambled away every copeck 
at Easter. Fed'ka told me so.' 

' There are military as weU as civil generals in Russia. Any 
Tchinoynik who has obtained the predicate 'your excellency' is 
«qual in rank to a general, and is commonly called so. 



* Aye, aye — the boy's no spendthrift, but there's 
a hole in his pocket where the money slips through.' 

' I have been married myself, my brothers ; and 
let me tell you it is a bad job for a poor man,' ob- 
serves SkourAtoff, who has just appeared on the 

* Oh, here you are at last ! We have been expect- 
ing you this last half-hour,' politely replies the clerk. 
*You are a cursed fool, Kviissoff! Do you think 
that the Major will dare to offer a bribe to a general ; 
and that the general has come all the way from St. 
Petersburg to look after the Major's doings ? You 
are an ass, Kvassoff, let me tell you that.' 

' As if a creneral would refuse a bribe 1 ' remarks a 
sceptic in the crowd. 

* He'll take it readily enough, if it's only a good 
big one, I warrant you.' 

*To be sure, it must be a good big one. The 
bigger the chap the bigger the bribe.' 

* A general will always take a bribe,' says Kv&s- 
soff, decisively. 

* Did you ever offer him one ? ' sneeringly aska 
Bakloushin, who has just come into the kitchen. ^ I 
dare say you have never even seen a general in your 

* To be sure I have.' 
' That's a Ue!' 

* Take care that I don't catch you telling lies ! ' 

^ Boys, make him tell us what general he knows.. 
Out with it, for I know them all.' 

^ I have seen General Siebert,' answers Kvdssoff, 




* Siebert ? Tliere is no such g^eneral in the army. 
There may have been a Lieutenant Siebert for aught 
I know, and I dare say he has examined your Wck 
pretty close once or twice, and you took him for a 
general in your fright.' 

' Hear me,' cries Skounitoff, ' for I am a married 
man. There used to he a General Siebert in the 
army, and he lived in Moscow, and was a Russian in 
spite of his German name. He always went to con- 
fession once a year to the Russian priest, and drank 
water like a duck. Every blessed morning he 
swallowed forty tumblers of water from the river 
Moskva — his own servant told me so. They said 
the doctors liad ordered him to do so for his health.' 

' I suppose he must have had quite a fishpond in 
his belly,' remarks the convict with the balalaika. 

' Hold your tongue ! This is a serious matter, 
and you chatter like a parcel of old women. Tell me 
all about the Government Inspector, my brother,' 
anxiously asks MartynofF, an old military prisoner. 

' I don't believe it,' says another sceptic. ' I 
wonder where they get all their news from. It's all 

* No, 'taint this time ! ' emphatically remarks 
Koulikoff, who has not spoken yet. Koulikoff is a 
dignified-looking, middle-aged man — a veterinary 
surgeon by profession, but does not object to selling 
spirits in the prison. His manners are haughty and 
supercilious, and he is proud of them. He is a clever 
fellow who has seen a good deal of the world ; he 
speaks slowly, weighing each word as if it were a 
rouble. * It's quite true, brother,' he continues 



ealmly, ^ I heard last week that a general has been 
sent by the Government on an inspection tour through 
Siberia. They will take good care to make him see 
only what he should see, and nothing more, and they 
will bribe him, but it won't be Eight-eyes this time 
— he knows better than that. There are different 
kinds of generals, my brother — good ones and bad 
ones, great ones and little ones. Only, mark my 
words, there is no chance of our getting rid of our 
precious Major. For we are. dumb folks, and the 
officers are not going to complain of each other, 
that's certain. The Inspector will just see what he 
is expected to see, and go away and report that 
he found everything in apple-pie order.' 

* They say the Major is much frightened ; he 
has been drinking hard this morning.' 

^ And is drinking now. Fed'ka said so.' 

' You will never wash a black dog white. This 

isn't the first time in his life that he has been 


• \Miat'3 to become of us if even a general can't 
do anything to help us ? We must help ourselves, 
and let them see that we won't stand this tomfoolery 
any longer,' cried the convicts. 

The news that a Government Inspector was 
coming spreads like wildfire in the prison. Groups 
of men are standing in the yard, talking and gesticu* 
lating excitedly. Others maintain a dignified silence ; 
some remain indifferent. Several men are sitting 
on the steps with their balalaikas, chatting or singing* 
In short, we are all in a highly excited state tliat 





At 10 P.M. the roll was called, and we were 
locked in for the night. We never got nnich sleep 
during the short summer nights, as we were roused 
at five in the morning, and it was always past eleven 
o'clock before the convicts settled down to sleep. 
There were frequent card-parties at night, the same 
as in winter. And, even if the men had lain down 
quietly at ten o'clock, the heat and stuffiness of the 
room was so great, in spite of the open window, and 
the fleas so numerous, that sleep was out of the 
question. The convicts tossed about on their pallets 
like patients in a fever, gasping for air and trying 
vainly to protect themselves from the bites of 
our tormentors. We were never free from fleas^ 
not even in winter, but they increased and mul- 
tiplied in summer so that everything was literally 
covered with them. Yet it is possible to get ac- 
customed even to fleabites, as I know from personal 
experience. They bit and plagued me till I was 
nearly frantic with tlie constant irritation, and when 
towards morning they seemed to have exhausted 
their energy at last and I was just sinking into 
slumber, the o^Sveil was sounded at the gate, and 
the roll of the drum roused me from my short 
sleep. How often have I listened to those sounds, 
drawing my fur coat tighter round me, and cursing 
theni from my heart at the thought that this 
would go on to-morrow, and the day after, and so 
on for many years till I was free again. And 
then I wondered if that time would ever come at alL 
By this time everybody was up and dressing, and I 
had to jimip up hurriedly and follow their exampl^^ 



to be in time for the roU-calL After all, we might 
always have a nap in the afternoon. 

The rumour about the Government Inspector was 
confirmed. An officer of very high mnk had been 
sent from St. Petersburg on a tour of inspection 
through Siberia, and had arrived in Tob6rsk. We 
heard that the inhabitants of our town were in a 
state of great excitement. There were to be balls, 
dinners, and receptions given in honour of the In- 
spector. Numbers of convicts were hard at work in 
the fortress, repairing the roods, painting the fences 
and posts, whitewashing the vmlls, etc. The men 
were even more excited than our officers, and one or 
two of the more energetic proposed even that 
complaints should be made in case the Inspector 
should ask if we were satisfied. Our Major was 
worse than ever ; he paid us frequent visits, found 
fault with everybody and everything, and hardly a 
day passed that some poor fellow was not flogged for 
some slight offence which, at other times, would 
have been unnoticed. At that same time a little 
incident happened in the prison which, however, 
rather pleased the Major instead of annoying him, as 
might have reasonably been expected. There had 
been a quarrel bettween two convicts, S6moff and 
Gavrila ; and Somoff had, in a fit of passion, stabbed 
his opponent with an awl in the breast, just below 
the heart. Gavrila, or Gavrilka as he was commonly 
called — indeed, I do not think he had any other name 
— was a tramp and vagabond. S6moff belonged to a 
family of wealthy Siberian peasants. It had con- 
sisted originally of five members — the father, three 


sons, and an uncle. They were large landed pro- 
prietors, had several shops, and carried on an extensive 
trade in furs and leather, but it was generally 
said that they had made most of their money (they 
had a capital of 800,000 roubles) by usury and by 
buying and selling stolen goods, etc. More than half 
of the peasants of their district were their debtors, or 
depended on them for theit subsistence by working 
for them. They were shrewd, clever fellows, and all 
went well with them for a time, till, unfortunately 
for them, a personage of high rank happening to stop 
at their house on a journey through that part of the 
country, took such a fancy to the old father that he 
always made a point of stopping with them whenever 
he had business in that part of the country, which 
was often the case. This sudden favour turned their 
heads completely; they grew more insolent and 
overbearing in their behaviour, both towards their 
superiors and their inferiors, openly defied the law, 
and made themselves universally hated and feared. 
But their hour came at last. They had a large farm 
about ten versts from the town. One year, towards 
the beginning of autumn, they had sent six Kirghise» 
who had been in their employment for a long time 
to work on the farm, and one night all the six men 
were murdered. The suspicion fell on the S6moffs — 
it was said that they owed the men more money than 
they cared to pay, being very avaricious in spite of 
their immense fortune, and that they had murdered 
them to get rid of them altogether. They were 
arrested, tried, and foimd guilty. During the trial 
many of their other crimes and misdeeds were 




revesled. The old father died, their large fortune 
wa5 confiscated, and the sons and their uncle were 
>entenced to penal servitude for twelve years. One of 
the young men and the uncle had been sent to our 
pri^son. And after all they were innocent of the 
murder. The real murderer turned out to be the 
same Gavrilka, a deserter and vagabond, who, with 
three other ruffians, had murdered the Kirghises. 
He and his companions had broken into the farm- 
house with the intention of robbing it on that 
autumn night. I do not know whether he ever con- 
fessed bis crime, but the convicts firmly believed 
that he was guilty. He had known the SomofTs 
formerly, and had been useful to them in many 
ways, and was now in the prison for a short time for 
deserting his regiment. 

The Somofis were not liked in the prison, for 
what reason I cannot tell. The nephew was a clever, 
pleasant young man, who got on well with everybody, 
but his uncle — ^the same who stabbed (ravrilka with 
the awl — ^was a tiresome, stupid fellow. He was 
always squabbling and quarrelling with one or the 
other of his fellow-prisoners, and had already got 
many a good drubbing for his pains. GravrHka, on 
the contrary, was a great favourite with everybody 
for his jovial, easy-going disposition. He had never 
had any quarrel before with the Somoffs, although 
rhey knew very well that they were suflFering for his 
crime ; but, somehow or other, they had always held 
aloof firom each other, and he had never taken the 
slightest notice of them, when one fine day he began 
to brag about the favours which had been shown him 

I - 



ty some girl. The old man grew jealous and stabbed 

Though the Somoffs had lost all their fortune 
they were the richest people in the prison, had 
a samovdr, and drank tea whenever they liked. Our 
Major knew it, and hated them both with a vengeance. 
It was visibly his great aim and object to catch 
them tripping that he might wreak his anger upon 
them. The Somoffs ascribed this hatred to his 
disappointment at not having received any present 
from them. 

If S<5moff had pushed the awl a little further he 
would have killed Gravrilka, but as it was the wound 
turned out to be a mere scratch. The case was at 
once reported to the Major, who arrived breathless 
with excitement and not at all displeased at having 
at last succeeded in catching one of his enemies 
flagrante delicto. He treated Gavrilka with as much 
tenderness as if he had been his own son. 

* Do you think you will be able to walk as far as 
the hospital, my friend? I think you had better 
drive there. Tell them to get the telega ready,' 
shouted he hurriedly to the sergeant-at-arms. 

' But I don't feel any pain, most high-bom one, 
indeed I don't. He only scratched me a little with 
the awl, most high-bom one.' 

* We will see about that, my friend ; it is a 
very dangerous place — oh, very dangerous indeed, 
just beneath the heart. The ruffian ! And you, you,' 
roared he, turning towards S6moff, ^see if Ijdon't 
make you smart for it! To the guardroom with 

X 2 



He kept his promise. S6moff was tried, and 
though the wound was a mere scratch it was ruled 
that there had heen the intention of murdering his 
adversary. He was sentenced to one thousand strokes, 
and I do not remember to how many more years of 
penal servitude. The Major was delighted of course* 

At last the Government Inspector arrived in the 
town. He came to inspect the prison on the day 
after his arrival, which happened to be a holiday. 
Everything had been cleaned, whitewashed, and put 
in order a few days before he came. The men had 
been newly shaved, and were dressed in clean white 
clothes. Our uniform in summer consisted of a white 
linen jacket and trousers, with a black circle about 
two inches in diameter sewn on the back. We had 
been drilled for a whole hoiu: how to answer in case 
he should wish us good-morning. The Major rushed 
about like mad. An hour before he came we all 
stood rooted to our places like posts. He drove up 
to the prison at one o'clock ; and came in looking 
very haughty and stem, followed by a large suite 
composed principally of officers, though there was 
one civilian among them, a tall, handsome man in a 
dress-<soat and shoes. He had also come from St. 
Petersburg. The General repeatedly spoke to him 
with marked politeness, to the great astonishment of 
the convicts, who would hardly believe their eyes 
when they saw so illustrious a personage as the 
General — there was something so imposingabout him, 
and he occupied so high a position in St. Petersburg 
that I do not wonder the governors of the convict 
prisons in Western Siberia trembled in their shoes 





at the very sight of him — ^treat a civilian with such 
deference. We heard afterwards who he was, and 
learnt his name. I cannot help thinking that our 
Major, in his tight coat with the orange collar, and 
with his bloodshot eyes and copper-coloured fece, did 
not produce a very favourable impression on the 
Inspector. He- had taken off his glasses out of 
respect to the visitor, and stood a little apart from 
the others, bolt upright, watching for an opportunity 
to show his zeal by flying to carry out the slightest 
wish of his excellency. But his excellency had no 
wishes, or if he had them he did not ask our Major 
io carry them out. He walked through the rooms 
without making any remark; went even into the 
t itchen and tasted the shtshi. Some one pointed to me : 

* So-and-so, a nobleman.' *Ahl' said the General, 

* how does he behave now ? ' * Very well, your excel- 
lency,' was the answer. The General nodded his head 
and left the prison a few moments after, leaving the 
convicts dazzled but dissatisfied on the whole. No- 
body had said a word about the Major, and he had 
been quite sure that nobody would speak out. 





The next important event in the prison, which took 
place soon after the visit of the Government Inspector, 
was the purchase of a horse. It had always been the 
custom to keep a horse in the prison to fetch fresh 
water from the river, carry away the offal, etc. A 
convict had been appointed to groom it, to perform 
the offices of water-carrier, etc. Our Brownie was a 
hard-worked horse, who had served us faithfully for 
many years, when one fine morning, just about St. 
Peter's Day, it fell down in the yard and died after 
having dragged in its last barrel of water. A large 
crowd immediately assembled round it, the convicts 
mourned over their dead Brownie, speculated on the 
possible causes of its death, even quarrelled about it, 
looked very wise, shook their heads', but all in vain — 
the poor creature remained dead, lying on its side 
with its body all bloated and distended. The Major 
was duly informed of the tragic event, and he gave 
the necessary orders to buy a new horse. Accord- 
ingly, on St. Peter's Day after early mass, when the 
men were all assembled in the yard in their holiday 
clothes, the horse-dealers made their appearance.. 
The convicts had been entrusted with the purchase^ 
and very proud and happy they were that on such an 

"-.rr »./:'. ''^ 

■ :\ 


important occasion the Major should have defe 
to their better judgment. He had acted wisely, 
would have been difficult even for the most cr 
horse-dealer to deceive a crowd of two hundred 
fifty men, most of whom were connoisseurs. 

It was comical to see the startled air with w] 

the horse-dealers looked around on finding th 

selves suddenly in the midst of a crowd of sha 

fettered criminals in the very courtyard of a con 

prison, and the anxious glances which they cast f 

time to time towards the soldiers who had ush( 

, them in and were standing at some distance. I ii 

not say that our men exerted themselves to 

utmost in choosing a horse, and displayed a n 

astonishing knowledge of all the good and 

qualities which this quadruped is said to posc 

They examined each animal submitted to their 

spection most carefully from the tip of its nose 

the end of its tail, looking into its eyes, nose, moi 

i and ears, and feeling it all over with such an aii 

importance as if the future wel£eure of the pri 

depended on their purchase. The Tcherkesses e 

jumped on the backs of the horses, their eyes spark! 

with pleasure, and chattered excitedly among th< 

selves in their dialect, showing their white teeth i 

nodding their heads. 

Three horses were rejected one .i^fter 

other, but the fourth found favour in the 6 

of the connoisseurs. It was a handsome, str* 

|.,.. - [ young animal with a bright^ good-^iatuFed €i 

I The man asked thirty roubles for it, but the c 

yicts would not give more thi^ twenty-five. At ii 



after a good deal of higgliogy they got it for twenty- 
eig^t roubles. The Major approved of the choice ; 
<me of the men ran into the kitchen, and reappeared 
presently with a piece of bread and salt to welcome 
the horse to its new home, and the animal was con- 
ducted into its stable with great solemnity, where it 
WIS visited by all the convicts in turns, who stroked 
its nose and patted it on the neck. Towards evening 
Brownie was harnessed to the water-cart, and we all 
crowded round to see how he would fulfil his new 
duties. Rom&n, our groom and water-carrier, cast 
frequent glances of admiration upon the new horse. 
He was a 8t4Lid, silent man, about fifty years old, of 
a very good-natured kindly disposition; his only 
passions were horses and snuff. He had been our 
groom for many years, as this was our third Brownie. 
The convicts had a great predilection for brown 
horses, and used to say that they matched the prison 
walls, and Bom4n shared their opinion. It has 
frequently been noticed that all Russian coachmen 
are steady, silent men, and it is commonly said that 
associating with horses renders men grave and staid 
in their demeanour. Rom&n was a first-rate groom, 
and when oiu: last Brownie died, nolx^dy, not even 
the Major, thought of ascribing this catastrophe to 
Romiin's n^igence — ^it had been God's will to 
smite the horse, that was all. Brownie soon became 
the pet of the prison ; convicts are not a very loving 
race, but they would frequently pet and stroke him. 
At night, when Romfin had come up from the river 
with his barrel, and was shutting the gates which the 
earjfoxdl had opened to let him in, Brownie would 


-■ i 

1 > 



OUR TETS. 313 

stand still in the yard waiting for him, and looking 
round from time to time to see if he were coming. 
* Go home,' shouts Roman, and Brownie goes straight 
to the kitchen door and stops there of his own accord, 
waiting for the cooks and housemaids to come with 
their pails to fetch the water. 

* Good fellow, Brownie ! ' says one. 

' He understands every word you say to him, just 
like a Christian,' says another. 

' Clever fellow, Brownie ! ' 

Brownie shakes his head and snorts as if he under- 
stood and appreciated these praises. A piece of 
bread and salt is brought from the kitchen, and 
Brownie eats it, shaking his head as if to say, * I 
know you well ; I am a good liorse and you are a 
good fellow.' 

It was one of my favourite pleasures to feed 
Brownie. I liked to look at his pretty face and feel 
his soft warm lips on my hand. 

Our convicts were fond of animals, and I think 
it is a great pity that the regulations of the prison 
and the lack of space do not admit of their keeping 
pets. There is hardly anything more capable of 
softening their hearts and making them less coarse 
and brutal than the care for some living being. 

I have already mentioned my friend Sh^rik,' a 
clever, good-natured dog who lived in the prison 
unloved and uncared for, because a dog is reputed 
unclean by the common people in Kussia. He slept 
somewhere in a comer in the yard, fed on garbage, 
iind, although nobody ever took the slightest interest 

> LiteraUy * small bal V 


in him, he knew ♦•vfiy convict individually, and 
tvifl.iulv c>'n-:«li»Mi hims«'lt* as l>eionj^in<J^ to us all. 
^V],en tl'»' (u^victs i-aiue home from their work at 
nii^ht, and tl.- onrporal was called from the i^uard- 
r«Mm i«^ ofH-Ti the catiid and let them in, .Shiirik 
would run to ni»»et them, wai^ji^ing his tail and look- 
in<:j wistfully into their faces as they passed in one 
by one as if r-xpectiuor a kind word or a caress. Hut 
f«T many yt-ai- nohody responded to his mute appeal 
exoepr niy.-r!*. and i>K' this reason he hived me better 
than the re>t. 1 do not remember now where our 
other doiT, Hj-ika,' came from, but the tliird, Koult- 
japka. I had i 'oui^^ht in one day when he was still a 
blind puppy, Hjelka was a curious-lookiuL*- creature; 
he had U.-en run over bv a cjirt in his vouth, and 
I'eeu oni:^li»*l «{uite oMt of shape. When viewed 
from a distance, especially if he w'ere nnininj^, lie 
l«X)ked lik»xi two white animals j^rown toi'ether. 
Hi- c^<\t was inan;^\ and there was hardly any hair 
left on his t:ii:. which lie carried constiintly betweea 
his legs as if ashamed to exhibit it. Poor creature, 
he seeme<i to feel that he had been harshly treated 
by Xatiu-e. and to have made up his mind to bear his 
hard lot patiently. He never was known to bark or 
even to growl, but spent most of his time behind the 
prison seekiu-r for focKi. Whenever any one ap- 
proached him. he had a trick of throwing himself on 
his Iwck and lying there perfectly still with an air of 
profound humility, as if to sa}^ ' You may do with 
me whatever you please — I shall not resist you.' And 
every convict seemed to consider it his duty to kick 

' Literallj' * squirrel." 

OUR PETS. 315 

the poor inoffensive brute with his heavy boot. 
Bjelka never whined when he was kicked, but if the 
blow had been exceptionally severe he would lift up 
his voice and howl mournfully. He had the same 
trick of rolling over before Sh^rik or any other dog,, 
and I have often seen him when attacked by some 
big ruffian of a dog lie on his back without moving 
a muscle. Dogs, like hiiman beings, like to see 
their equals fear and respect them, and the most 
ferocious cur generally cooled down very quickly at 
the sight of a timid fellow-creature lying on its back 
with its paws up in the air, and after looking at him 
pensively for some time and sniffing him all over, he 
generally walked away, much to the relief of Bjelka, 
who immediately jumped up and went about his own 
business, or perhaps limped after a string of dogs 
who were escorting some interesting young lady 
of their acquaintance home. He never sought to 
find favour in her eyes, poor fellow, but it was a com- 
fort to him in his sad life to limp after her from 
afar. I have often wondered what he could be think- 
ing about when he was lying on his back before a 
big dog. Was he afraid of being bitten ? I once 
stroked him. This was so unprecedented an event 
in the poor dog's life that he crouched down on the 
ground trembling with ecstasy and whining loudly. 
I often stroked him after that time, and he was so 
grateful to me that he could never meet me without 
bowling piteously. 

Poor Bjelka, his sad end corresponded to his life. 
He was torn to pieces by other dogs on the rampart 
behind the prison. 


Our third do^r, Koiiltjapka^ was quite a different 
creature from tlie uther two. I took him from his 
motlier in one of the workshops when he was still a 
blind puppy ami hroiij^ht him into the prison. I 
cannot tell what made me tiike him, unless that 1 
liked the thought of having something to care for. 
Sharik at once took him tmder his protection, and 
slept with him. and when he grew older he even 
allnwrd him Vj take sundry Hlierties with him, such 
a- hiring lii* ear.-, pulling his tail, etc., and played 
with him as old dogs will play with puppies. It was 
a reinarkahlf fact that Koidtjapka never seemed to 
grow any taller, hut longer and broader. His coat 
was cuily and «>f a pretty mouse colour, one of his 
ears grcw up and the other down. He was of a very 
excitable narnre, and could never l3e taught to re- 
^traiu his tV*j lings, and whenever he heard my voice 
calling him b^ would rush up wildly to meet me, 
bowling with joy and rolling over and over in his 
hurry. I ha<i grown very fond of the little creature, 
and it seemed as if his life was going to be a happy 
one. But fate had decreed it otherwise. One fine 
day the convict Xeiistroeff, who was by trade a tanner 
and ladiei' shoemaker, seemed struck by something in 
him. He called Koultjapka, felt his fur, and stroked 
him gently. Tlie dog, who suspected no evil, whined 
with pleasure. The next morning he had disappeared. 
I searched everywhere for him, but in vain ; and it 
was not till a fortnight after that I learned that 
Xeiistroeff bad killed my dog and taken his fur to 
line a pair of velvet house-boots which a lady in 
the town had ordered. He even had the impudence 

OUR PETS. 317 

to show me the boots when they were reftdy. The 
fur was very soft and fine, and I dare say fetched a 
good price. Poor Koultjapka ! 

It was by no means an imusual thing for the 
convicts to steal or buy dogs with a fine glossy coat, 
kill them, and use their fur for lining boots, etc. I 
remember seeing one day two convictnS in earnest 
consultation in a comer of the yard. One of them* 
was leading by a string a fine large dog, who had 
evidently been stolen. I heard afterwards that this 
had been the case, and that some scoundrel of a ser- 
vant had stolen his master's pet and sold him to our 
shoemaker for thirty copecks. They were going to 
hang it, which was their usual mode of killing dogs, 
then to skin it and throw the carcase into a deep cess- 
pool which was in a corner of the yard and seldom 
cleaned out. The stench was terrible, especially dur- 
ing the hot weather. The poor dog seemed to know 
what was awaiting him; he looked anxiously into 
our faces, wagging his beautiful bushy tail slowly 
and timidly, as if hoping to touch our hearts by this 
demonstration of trust. I left them soon, and they 
made away with the poor creature. 

We also kept a flock of geese in the prison. I 
never could learn to whom they had originally be- 
longed, but they amused the convicts greatly, and 
were well known in the town. They had been born 
and bred in the kitchen. As soon as the goslings 
had attained a suitable age, they took it into their 
heads to accompany us when we went out to our 
work. When the drum sounded and the convicts 
marched towards the great gate, our geese ran after 


Ti? cackling and with outstretched wing^s, jumped 
across the tiir»-?hold of the little ^ate, and drew up 
waiting pitieiitly till the whole jwrty had come out. 
Tiiey al«'ay.s j«»i!UHl themselves to the lartjest liarty, 
an«i j^razoi^l not far from it till the men l>e*»an to get 
re-tdy to ^o ]i<»me, when they followed them back to 
th»,' prison. It was a standing joke in tlie fortress 
that we always took otir gi^ese with us to help us in 
nur work. ' There are the convicts with their geese,' 
pr-.ple w..ul(l say who met us in the road ; * how 
di I vou mjma;'e to teach them to follow vou like 
th:tt?' ' Here's a trifle for your geese/ another would 
say. Xeverthfless, in spite of their attachment to 
us. they w»*rr all killed and eaten on some grcit 

I do not think we would have killed our goat 
V;;-<!<a if we liad not been forced to do it. I do not 
kr.. .\v wlir-re \\^. ..:tme from or who brought him, but 
<•:." rine dav a prettv little white ki<l was discovered 
w.ilkin;j: al»<>ut uur premises. In a few days he had 
Uroorae a universal fiivourite, and there was hardly 
a c>avict in tht* prison who did not play with him 
and pet him. Resides, we hsid a good excuse for 
keeping a goat, for had we not a stable, and how can 
a stable exist without a goat? However, he never 
t«>3k up his abode in the stable, but roamed about 
th«= pris*)u and the kitchens at his own sweet will. 
Hr was a nimble, graceful little creature, full of fun, 
and would come when he was called, jump upon the 
tables and benches, and butt at the convicts. One 
day, when his horns had grown pretty strong, the 
Lesghin Babu'i, who was sitting on the steps with 

ouu PETS. a 19 

«everal othere^ bad been playing with him. Sud- 
denly Vdss'ka jumped upon the uppermost step, and 
hardly had Babri'i turned away when he arose upon 
his hind-legs, drew his fore-legs in, and making a 
spring at the man knocked him down the whole 
flight of steps, to the great delight of the lookers-on. 
He grew up to be a beautiful goat, with long horns, 
and was so fat that he waddled in walking. He 
also occasionally accompanied us when we went 
out to work, and was well known in the town as 
V^ss'ka the prison goat. Sometimes, when the 
convicts were at work on the banks of the river, 
they would make a wreath of twigs, flowers, and 
leaves and wind it round his horns and body. On 
such occasions Vfiss'ka always walked in front heading 
the procession, the convicts following proudly and 
trying to attmct the attention of the passers-by. 
They were so fond of him that they even asked once, 
like children, if they might not gild his horns. How- 
ever, this plan was never carried out. I remember 
once asking Akim Akimytch, who was our next best 
gilder after Issai Fomitch, whether it wei*e possible 
to gild a goat's horns. He looked attentively at the 
goat, and after meditating a while said that such a 
thing might be done, but that the gilding would wear 
oflf very soon, and after all what would be the use of 
it ? I suppose V4ss'ka would have lived to a good old 
age if one day, when he was coming home at the 
head of the procession as usual, he had not met the 
Major in his droshki. ^ Stop ! ' roared this functionary, 
* whose goat is that?' They told him. *What, 
you keep a goal in the prison without my leave I 


AVherp i> the ^erp^eant-at-a^n8 ? ' The sergeant 
steppe<l furth, and the Major commanded liim to see 
that the jxoat was killed at once, his skin sold in tJie 
market, and tlie money put into tlie convicts' fund, 
acd the i(iven tliem for their shtshi. We 
were all very sorry for our poor Vass'ka, but nobody 
dareil disobey the Major. So he was slauglitered 
over the cesspool, and one of the convicts bought 
his carcase for 1^ roubles, cut it up, and sold it to 
the rest in small pieces. The H roubles were spent 
in kalatchi. The meat was very tender and savoury. 
Anoth«-r of t»ur pets was a small eagle, which had 
l«een brought into the prison half-dead. His right 
wini' was broken and his rijjht foot dislocated. I 
rememlH^r well how fiercely he looked around him, 
L'-arin;: at tho curious crowd who had gathered 
r«y;!id und <»ptning his crooked beak, showing his 
intention of dying hard. When the crowd began 
to disper-e he limped into a distant corner, hopping 
on one toot and fla])ping his left wing, and remained 
there for tlu-ee months without ever leaving it once. 
A: tirst the men used often to come and look at him, 
and even set Siiarik to worry him. Sharik always 
m.ide a great display of l>ravery, but to the great 
amusement of the men seemed afraid of coming: too 
near his adversary. As time wore on, and Sh^irik 
grew more accustomed to him, he occasionally varied 
his mode of attack, and used to seize liim by his 
broken wing. The eagle fought desperately with his 
beak and talons, and proudly eyed the people who 
had come to gape at him like a wounded king. 
They got tired of him at last, and he would have 

OUK PETS. 321 

starved to death in his comer if some one had not 
taken pity on him and brought him meat and water 
every day. For a long time he refused to eat, but 
at last condescended to take some food, though he 
would never take it from our hands, or even if any 
of us stood by. I have frequently watched him 
when he thought he was alone to see what he was 
doing. He would sometimes creep out of his comer 
and hobble a short distance along the fence, then 
come back to his corner and hobble out again, 
repeating the process ten or twelve times as if he 
were taking a constitutional. As soon as he caught 
sight of me he hurried back into his corner, and 
there, with ruffled wings and open beak, prepared to 
fight me. I never could tame him ; he always hit 
me and flapped his wings violently, and could never 
be induced to take anything out of my hand, but 
always kept his fierce sharp eyes fixed on me. He 
was prepared to meet death alone without having 
trusted or made friends with any one. 

Suddenly the convicts remembered him, though 
he had been forgotten for nearly two months ; and it 
was decided to set him free — that he might not die a 
captive, as they said. 

' Of course, he is a free bird,' observed another, 
* and will never get accustomed to a prison.' 

' He is different from us, then,' added some one. 

* Don't you see the difference between a bird and 
a man, you idiot ? ' 

' The eagle is the king of the woods, brethren,' 
Skour^toff began, but nobody heeded him. One day 
after dinner, when the drum sounded for work, one 



of the mc'ii took the on^lc up, and, holding his lieak 
tight becau-r^ ho was trvin^ to bite him, carried him 
otit of thi' prison to tlie rampart. The whole party 
was very mucli interested in seeing where the eagle 
woulil fly to. Tlit'V «ill seemed as ]ileased and happy 
as if thev had >>een set free themselves. 

' You want to do the l)east good, and he bites 
you/ said the man who was holding him, looking 
loviniidv at the fierce l)ird. 

* I^^'T liim go. >rikitka.' 

* Let him go : give him his freedom — his own 
sweet littlf freedom.' 

Tlie «:i,:^le was thrown down from the rampart 
into the steppe. It was a cold, bleak day in the 
latter parr of autumn. The wind whistled across the 
l»are stt-ppe and among the 3'ellow grass. The eagle 
walked >traii^bt away as fast as he could go, flapping 
hi> broken win.:, the convicts following with their 
evt;? the dark head as it moved quickly through the 
grass of the steppe. 

* He i? gone I * remarked one pensively. * And he 
never once looked round ! ' 

' Once I ' added another. * He is running away 
without looking round, my brother.' 

' Did vou think he would come back to tlr-l 
you, perhaps ?' observed a third. * He is free rn 

* He is free ! * echoed another. 

' You don't see him any more, do you, 
brothers ? ' 

'WTiat are you gaping at, there? Go to • .r 
work at once,' shouted the soldiers; and the con. if ■ - 
went to their work in silence. 




I HAVE already said above that I had isolated 
myself as much as possible from my fellow-prisoners 
during the first summer that I spent in the prison. 
The state of my mind at that time was such that I 
do not think I could have been able to distinguish 
between the convicts, and select those who were 
more congenial to me, and who might hereafter have 
even become my friends. True, I had fellow-suflFerers 
of my own rank and station in life ; but what could 
they do towards removing the burden which weighed 
on my soul day and night ? 

About that time there happened an incident 
which I will relate here, as it will illustrate better 
than words can do the pecidiar situation in which 
we noblemen were placed in the prison. 

One fine hot day in August, when all the convicts 
were supposed to be taking their afternoon nap pre- 
paratory to setting out to work, the men suddenly 
marched out of the prison and drew up in the yard. 
If I had been less absorbed in my own sad thoughts 
I could not have helped noticing that there was 

T 2 


something unusual j^oing on. The men had grown 
more sull«-n ami »|uarreI:^ome of late, and there was 
a fewrish rr-tlrssness and irritability about them 
which I had attrilnitiHl to the excessively hard work 
done un tlie hju;; tedious summer days — when the 
thoughts of the prisoners will involuntarily fly to 
the old glad life in the woods and steppes — and to 
the want of sleep, the nights being so short. No 
doubt all ihe>e ditierent circumstances had con- 
tributcti towards luisettling their minds; but the 
princip;\l cau*e of this unexpected outbreak was the 
bad food. For several days past the men had been 
grumbling abjut it, and even tried to amend the 
state of thini;? by turning away one of the cooks and 
electing a new one ; but they soon repented of their 
liccisiou and re-elected the old ' kitchenmaid.' 

' Tis nothing but hard work, and guts to eat 
instead of meat I' some one would remark in the 

' \^'hy d-^n*t you order blancmange instead ? ' 
observed another. 

' Shtshi and guts,' added pensively a third, * is 
mv favourite dish, mv brothers.' 

' If you were fed on guts all the time you were 
here, } ou would be quite satisfied with your keep, 
wouldn't you now ? ' 

' To be sure, they ought to give us more meat,' 
chimed in a fourth. ' We toil and sweat all day long 
in the kiln, and when we get home there's nothing 
but guts in the pot.' 

'Tain't guts all the time; we have had a bit of 
the old sow's heart now and then.' 


* Oh, the heart, to be sure! First-class diet, 
ain't it now? Guts and the old sow's heart!' 

* Yes ; the keep is bad enough.' 

* But his pocket grows fatter every day.' 

* 'Tis none of your business.' 

* 'Tis my belly's business then, if it ain't mine. 
I say, boys, why don't we tell them plainly that 
we won't be starved any longer, and have done 
with it ? ' 

' Do you mean to say that we ought to strike ? * 

* I do.' 

* It won't be the first time that you have been 
flogged for speaking your mind, I expect.' 

* Quite true,' growls another convict, who has 
not said anything j^et ; * the quickest way is not 
always the best. What are you going to tell them 
plainly, you big-headed fool ? ' 

'First make up your minds if you will go on 
starving or not, and then you will see if I don't 
say my say. There are some here who always buy 
their own dinner, while we starve on the prison food.' 

' Aha ! that's why we want to speak out plainly. 
We are coveting other people's dinners.' 

* Don't open your mouth too wide to swallow 
another man's bit and sup, but get up betimes and 
fill your own.' 

* WTny don't you fill yours then, instead of sitting 
with your hands folded ? ' 

* Greroshka is a rich man — he keeps a dog and 
a cat ! ' 

^ Listen to me, brothers, instead of jabbering 
there. There's no knowing where they will stop if 


we don't put a stop to their proceedings at once. 
Let us rise as one man, and show tlieni tliat we are 
not j^oing to -.ulHuit to be flayed alive I' 

' I dare sav vou would like us to cliew each 
morsel first and tlien put it into your mouth, tliat 
you may have only the trouble of swallowing it ! ' 

'Tis tlie old song again: "Set tlie nations by 
the ear.-, Lord, that the rulers may grow rich !" ' 

'That's it. Kight-eyes' purse has grown won- 
• ierfully fat f*( late. He Ijouglit a pair of grey horses 
rhe other da v.' 

* And he never touches wine, not lie I ' 

*The night before last lie and the veterinary 
?urge» »n got to loggerheads at cards. Fed'ka said so.' 

* That's why our shtshi is so rich ! ' 

']>o» you think that you will carry the day by 
ciiattrring like a parcel of old women ? ' 

* I .-ay, let us stand up and tell him that we must 
Lave Ujtter food, or else we won't bear it any longer, 
\Vhat will lie ?ay then ? ' 

'He will knock out your teeth, and tiien you will 
know what he has said, and be flogged into the 
bargain I ' 

Our sergeant-at-arms, seeing the men assemble 
in the yard, rushed out in a great fright, follow^ed by 
the invalided .soldiers, who drew up opposite the 
mutineers. The latter politely requested the. ser- 
geant to tell the Major that they \vished to speak to 
him personally. Never in all his life had the poor 
soldier found himself in such a predicament. If he 
refused to comply with the men's request there was 
uo knowing how the thing might end. If, on the 


other hand, he could have prevailed upon them to 
disperse quietly and go about their work as usual, it 
would still have been his duty to report to the Major 
what had happened ; and then, what would he say ? 
After a moment's hesitation he hurried off, pale and 
trembling with fear, and without making any attempt 
to pacify the convicts, for he knew that they would 
not have listened to him. 

Not knowing in the least what was going on, my 
first thought when I saw the men assemble in the yard 
was that the roll was probably going to be called, and 
I hastened out accordingly to join them. But, not 
seeing any of the officers who were usually present 
on such occasions, I looked around, and was struck 
by the altered expression of the men's faces. Some 
were deathly pale, while others looked flushed and 
excited. The one prevailing thought seemed to be 
what they were going to say to the Major. I noticed 
that several stared at me as if wondering what I 
possibly could want there, and then turned away 
without speaking. They were evidently amazed at 
my having turned out with them, and wondered if I 
too was going to rebel. A few moments passed in 
silence, and then those who stood next to me again 
looked at me inquiringly. 

* What dost thou want here ? * gruffly asked 
Vassily Antonoff, who was standing at some dis- 
tance from me. He had hitherto always behaved 
with great politeness to me, and never thee-and- 
thouM me before. 

I gazed at him in blank astonishment, trying to 
understand what was going on, and it began to dawn 


upon me that, whatever it might l)i», it was some- 
thing unu<tial. 

*He is right, this is no place for thoe. Go })ack 
into the prison,' J«aid a young military prisoner with 
whom I hjid never exchanged a word yet. *Tlioii 
hast no business to be here.' 

* I thought the roll was going to Ik? called when I 
saw vou all turn out,' said I. 

* Oh ! has he crept out too ? ' snceringly remarked 

* Iron-nose!* observed another. 

* Fly-killer ! ' said a third, with an expression of 
infinite contempt. This new appellation met with 
imiversal approbation. 

*He is the kitchenmaid's sweetheart,' added a 

* They know where the good things are. We 
starve, and they eat kalatchi and buy sucking-pigs 
every day. You have no business to be here since 
you find your own dinners.' 

' This is no place for you,' said Konli koff, and, 
marching up to me, he took me by the arm in an 
offhand manner and led me aside. I looked at him 
— his face was very pale, and there was a peculiar 
glitter in his dark eyes. He, too, was flurried and 

' You had better keep away, Alexander PetnS- 
vitch, and not m^\. mixed up in this conceni. There 
are all your friends in the kitchen, go and stop with 
them till it is all over.' 

* Go and look in an empty barrel, maybe you'll 
find something for you there ! ' shouted another. 


Through the open kitchen window I could see 
our Poles. The whole place seemed to be full of 
men, I followed Koulikoff's advice, and betook 
myself thither. My retreat was accompanied by a 
volley of abuse, laughter, and a series of peculiar 
soimds which are used by the convicts in lieu of 

* He didn't like us, did he ! Tyou, tyou, tyou, 

This was the first time that I had been so grossly 
insulted in the prison, and my feelings were deeply 
wounded. It would have been better for me if I had 
kept away from the men at that moment ; but how 
could I know what was going to happen. I met 

T in the passage leading to the kitchen. He,. 

too, was a gentleman like myself, a generous-minded 

youth, a great friend of B and a special favourite 

with the convicts. 

* What on earth are you about, Grorydntchikoff,' 
he called out when I came near. * Come hare. What 
are they about there ? ' 

* Dont you know that they have rebelled against 
the governors? The worse for them, for who will 
pay attention to a convict's wrongs ? They will try 
and find out the ringleaders, and you may be sure 
that if they catch us among the men, the suspicion 
will &11 on us. Have you forgotten what has brought 
us here ? The men will get ofi* with a flogging ; but 
we may be brought up before a court-martial. The 
Major hates us, and would be only too glad to find a 
pretext to ruin us altogether.' 

* And the convicts will be sure to throw all th& 


blame on u?,' added yi wlien wc entered the 


There were al»out thirty men a.^sembled in the 
kitchen lx?si«lt.'S our own selves ; all those who, partly 
from cowardice, partly because they foresaw that re- 
belling would only make matters worse, wished to 
remain neutral, having Ijetaken themselves thither. 
There was my old friend, Akim Akimytch, the sworn 
enemy of rel.>ellions and mutinies, which must have 
clashed terrii»lv with his strict notions about order 
and morality. He was quietly and silently awaiting 
the end, feeling quite ^ure beforeliand that it was all 
going to end well — i.e. that order and the will of our 
superiors would carry tlie day. In a comer stood 
Issii'i Fomitch, looking very frightened and uncom- 
fortable, listening- ea''«»rlv to our talk. All the other 
Polish convicts had joined us, as well as a few Rus- 
sians who wert^ afraid to join the mutineers, and 
waited s<3rrowfullv to see how matters would turn 
out. Two or three surly-looking convicts, who did 
not Wlieve in mutinies, knowing that they only made 
matters worse, were sittinjj: in a corner. There was 
Telkin, the coiner and veterinary surgeon, and our 
old Rasskolnik. The cooks had all remained in the 
kitchen, and declined to take any part in the pro- 
ceedings. I suppose they looked upon themselves 
as forming part of the Oovernor's staff, in which case 
it would have been incompatible with their dignity 
to join the rebels. 

*But,' said I hesitatingly, turning to M , 

* almost everyone has turned out except these few.' 

' And what then ? ' growled B . * We would 



run a much greater risk than they do if we joined 
them, and, after all, wliat should we gain ? Je Iiais 
les brigands. You surely cannot be serious when 
you speak as if tliis mutiny would lead to some- 
thing. Believe me, keep clear of the whole thing 
while you can.' 

* It is all a mistake,' said one of the convicts, an 
obstinate old gentleman, whose temper had been 
soured by years of imprisonment. Ahruisoff, who had 
also retreated to the kitchen, immediately agreed 
with him. ' The only thing they will gain by it is 
a flogging,' said he. 

' The Major has arrived I ' cried some one, and we 
all ran to the windows. 

The jNIajor rushed into the yard, his face purple 
and swelled with rage, and walked up straight to the 
men without speaking a word, but with a firm step. 
In such moments he never lost his presence of mind, 
and was as brave as a lion, though 1 always suspected 
him of having stimulated his courage by something 
stronger than water. There was something ominous 
in the look of his greasy cap, with its orange-coloured 
border, and his tarnished epaulets. He was followed 
by the regimental clerk, Dy^tleff, a very important 
personage, who did all the writing and had a great 
deal of influence over the Major. The convicts liked 
him, for he was a good-tempered young man, who 
never willingly harmed any one. The rear was brought 
up by our sergeant-at-arms, poor fellow, who looked 
very much crestfallen, and three or four soldiers. 
The convicts, who had been standing without their 
caps ever since they had sent for the Major, drew 


tbeni«elvos up. and stood stock still, waiting for their 
♦ •fr.cor Xn <[»»':ik. or rjthor to scream at tliem. 

Tlu V ha«l ]i«.t IodlC to wait, for the Major at once 
?iirit'k»Ml nut M>m«tliini^ wliicli wc could not l)oar5 
owinif t«« tlio «]i>tancp. Wo could sec him from the 
window? nishinp; frantically up and down, pointing 
at some men. and evidently asking questions. From 
time to time some incoherent words would njach us, 
>ucli a? : * K»'ljels ! Mutineers ! I will flog you 
witliin an inch of vour lives I Vou are at the bottom 
of tin* wliole thing I And you ! And you! 'with a 
sudden spring at the culprit. 

We cMiM not hear the men's answers ; but we 
saw a nv'merii after a convict detach himself from 
the rest, and .:•> off in the direction of the iruard- 
r.'Om. He w:.> followed by a second, and soon .after 
by a tliird. 

' I shall havp you all brought up before a court- 
martial. VMii do'r?; Who's that in the kitchen?' 
yelled he. sinMenly looking up and catching sight of 
our faces at the kitchen windows. ' Call thera at 
once. Send them here this moment ! ' 

Dvatleff oV-eved; but we told him we had re- 
treated to tlie kitchen because we wished to remain 
neutral. Wlien our answer was reported to the iMajor 
he seemed pleased. ' Oh, indeed,' said he ; ' but tell 
them to come here all the same.' 

We ol>?ved. T must confess that I felt rather 
ashamed of myself, and so did the rest, as we passed 
bv the men. 

*Ah, Prokofyeff, you are here; and you too 
Telkin and AlmasofF — that's right. Come here. 

'•;•.■ '^ 


stand all together on this side,' said the Major in a 
softer voice, looking kindly at us. * M — ky, you are 
here too. Dydtleff, put down the names of the 
rebels on one sheet of paper, and the names of the 
others on another, and let me have the list. I shall 
have you up before a court-martial before long, you 

The mention of the list had a visible eflfect on 
the convicts. 

* We don't want to rebel,' a voice in the crowd 
called out hesitatingly. 

* Very well. Let all those who are contented 
stand aside.' 

'We are all contented, and we don't want to 
rebel I ' cried several voices. 

' Who has been at work among you, setting 
you up against your superiors ? They will be sorry 
for it I ' 

* Good Lord, how is this going to end ? ' exclaimed 
a voice in the crowd. 

* Who was that ? who, who ? ' shrieked the Major, 
turning sharply round. ' It was you, Rastorgoueff. 
To the guard-room with you ! ' 

Bastorgoiieff, a tall young man with puffy cheeks, 
slowly obeyed. He had not opened his mouth once ; 
but since it had pleased the Major to accuse him, he 
did not even attempt an explanation. 

' I'll break your will yet, my fine gentleman,' 
howled the Major after him. 'You fat unwashed 
pig I I shall find out the ringleaders, you will see if 
1 don't. Are you contented or discontented ? ' 

' We are contented, most high-born one I ' cried a 


few grniff Voice-, while the rest maintained a stub- 
Ih-^rn silon«-.». Hut tin* Major, who was anxious to 
^ot ilie ni:Ut«'r -.'ttl^l as sc»on as possihlo, protended 
not TO notio*^ it. 

• I am L^lad to see tliat. yon arc nil contented/ 
said he hurriedly. * I know that you would never 
have thoug^ht of reWlino; if you had not been 
work>>l upon by agitators. The matter must 
be in.juireil into carefully,' ho added, turning to 
I>y;'ttl»rf. ' .\nd now go to j'our work. Sound the 

He waited to see us all off. The men dispersed 
in gloomy silenctr, not displeased at finding them- 
sehv> let off so easily. The Major then betook hira- 
>elf to tlie guardroom, where the * ringleaders and 
ai;ir:\*ors' w^*re awaiting their doom. None of them 
w»r»- puiii>]ied ven.' severely, and it was even said 
that \i*i fianloned one man at once who liad asked his 
forgiveness. It was clear that he felt ill at ease, and 
not a little frightened at this sudden outbreak in 
the prison, which could neither be called a riot or 
mutiny, as no act of violence or insubordination had 
Ijeen committed, and the men had merely begged 
leave to speak to him about some personal grievances. 
The matter was hushed up, and on the next day a 
marked improvement in our dietary took place, which, 
however, unfortunately did not last long. The Major 
paid frequent nsits to the prison in the course of the 
next few days and found fault with everything. Our 
poor sergeant-at-arms wandered about the place, 
looking careworn and preoccupied, and unable to 
recover from the effect of the moral blow he had 


received. The convicts seemed much disappointed 
with the final result of their conspiracy ; some hung 
their heads as if ashamed of themselves, others gave 
vent to their displeasure in sarcastic remarks about 
each other and themselves. In short, everybody felt 
wretched and uncomfortable for a long time after. 

^ Biots are capital things after all,' one would 

* Never laugh at your master, for you have got to 
work for him,' added a second. 

* Where is the mouse who tied the bell round the 
cat's neck,' said a third. 

* The best way to make us feel that we are in the 
wrong is to flog us. I wonder he did not flog every 
one of us.' 

'Next time we rebel you had better hold your 

tongue,' angrily remarked a third. 

' Who are you that you want to teach me, pray ? ' 
' I know what I am talking about, and you don't 


* Bless me, how wise you have grown all of a 
sudden 1 ^ 

* Well, thank Heaven, I am a man with brains in 
my head. And what are you ? ' 

* You call yourself a man. You are a bone which 
no dog would eat.' 

* That's just what you are yourself.' 

* Shut up, there ! ' bawled the other convicts. 

On the evening of this memorable day, as I was 
coming home, I met Petr<5ff behind the prison. He 
had been looking for me everywhere, and came up to 
me murmuring something which I did not quite 


catch, but 5«x>n lap>cd into silence, and walked on 
m'.chaiiicallv bv niv side. I was still very ranch ex- 
fitt-.l by the ♦voiit.- t»f tlui day, and wanted to talk 
them over with liirn. 

* Tell me, Petr«''tT,' asked I, ' are your friends very 
angry with us ? ' 

* Who is angry ? * asked he, in a startled tone, as 
if he had been sutldenly awakened from sleep. 

* I mean, are the convicts displeased with us 
Dublemen ? ' 

' What for ? • 

* Because we did not join them to-day.' 

* Why should you join us ? ' replied he, as if trying 
to under5t:in»l my meaning; * you find your own 

•Good heavens, Petroff! There are many of 
your fri.iiJj who find their own dinners, and yet 
they joined the rebels. Don't you think that we 
ou;jjht to have done it for the sake of good-fellow- 
ship? * 

'But y.iu don't belong to us,' said he, in a 
puzzled toue. 

I glanced at him. He seemed unable to make 
out what I was driving at in my questions. But I 
understood aim only too well, and I knew now what 
I had only vaguely suspected before — that there was 
a barrier between him and me which nothing would 
ever remove. Even if I had remained a convict all 
my life, or been a military prisoner in the Special 
Department, and lived there and died among them, 
that would never have brought us any nearer to each 
other, for I was not one of them— T was altogether 


a different being. I shall never forget the efpression 
of Petr6ff's face when he said, * But you don't belong 
to us.' I was at first inclined to think that he was 
sneering at me, or that he had been prompted to say 
so from a feeling of hatred, but I was wrong there. 
I did not belong to their set, that was all. They 
went their way, and expected me to go mine ; they 
minded their own business, and I minded mine. 

I had feared at first that they would make us 
suffer for having remained neutral ; but there I was 
mistaken again. The matter was hardly ever alluded 
to, and if it was nobody thought of blaming us for 
not having taken a more active part in it. They 
sneered at us and abused us as they had done before, 
but that liad nothing to do with our behaviour at the 
time of the mutiny. Neither were they angry with 
those men who belonged to their own set, and who 
had prudently retreated to the kitchen till the storm 
had blown over, or even with those who had given in 
first and told the Major that they were contented. I 
never could understand why they should have been 
so lenient to them. 


ooo LI klKU ALIVi:. 


After our Major left, great changes took place in 
our prison. The civil prison was converted into a 
military pri>«"»n. Xo fre?h civil criminals were sent 
to lis. I'Ut thri old ones were allowed to remain till 
tiieir term <>f imprisonment had expired, when they 
left the penal estaMishment. The Special Depart- 
ment remaint-d unchanged, as it had been originally 
instituted for military criminals, and from time to 
time important criminals were still sent to it. The 
i::overnment o( our prison had also been changed. 
It consi>tt'd now of a staff officer, one commandant 
(as he was called), and four officers. The invalided 
soldiers were discharged, and twelve stibaltern officers 
took their place. The convicts were divided into 
groups of ten men each, and a senior, called corporal, 
appointed to each group. I need not say that Akim 
Akimytch was at once elected as cori^ral. 

Naturally enough, the convicts were at first 
much excited by these new arrangements, and the 
new government was a good deal talked over and 
criticised ; but when they saw that after all things 


remained much the same as they had been, they soon 
calmed down again, and our life went on as usual, 
witli tlie exception tliat we breathed more freely since 
we had got rid of the Major. The men no longer 
looked scared — they knew that in case of need they 
might always appeal to the Governor, and that if 
perchance the innocent were punished instead of the 
guilty it would be by mistake. The liquor trade 
also flourished much as it had done before, in spite 
of the vigilance of the subaltern officers. To do 
these worthies justice, they soon understood their 
position, and let the convicts do very much as they 
liked. At first one or two had attempted to bully 
them, and treat tliem as if they had been soldiers ; 
but they were soon made to understand reason. A 
few disagreeable incidents happened, of course. Thus, 
for instance, the convicts would persuade a sub to 
join them in their drinking bouts, and the next day 
calmly tell him that he could not well report the 
occurrence to the Governor, as he had partaken of 
their hospitality. 

Finally the convicts brought liquor into the pri- 
son openly in bottles under the very eyes of the subs, 
who pretended not to see it, and who even volunteered 
to buy our provisions for us in the town as the in- 
valided soldiers had done. 

After the Major left, his old favourite, A , 

remained in the prison alone, without a friend or 
protector. I suppose he would have been glad enough 
to continue his old tricks, spying and doing all kinds 
of underhand things, if he had only been free, and 
would probably have managed things better and more 

s 2 

340 burip:d alive. 

cl»^verly tlinn lip had done the first time, when he paid 
d^Mrly tT hi- f«»lly. Tlio oonvicts nftinncd tliat wliile 
h'l wa? ill tlif .Majors kitclien he had forced pass- 
p-'Ft?, ai.d !nad»» :i considerahle profit hy it; but [ 
cannot an>\v»*r for the triitli of this assertion. He 
was oD»- of the most cynical men I knew, and always 
awakened in me a feeling of invincible repugnance. 
I alvrav5 thouirht that if he had longed for a glass of 
li'iuor. and could not get it except by committing a 
murd»T. h«* would have done so at once, provided it 
f»uld havf lieen done in secret. In a word, he was 
one of those despenidocs who will do anything to 
cbangt' their lot. and just the sort of man the con- 
vict K"ulikott' wanted to help him in carrying out 
hi^ plan?. I think I have mentioned Koulfkoff 
r.'.rtfady. He was a middle-aged man, of strong 
pxssioriS, higlily giftt^ in many wayts, and thirsting 
for an active life. I do not know which of them liad 
t^^reater influence over the other. Anyhow, they 
l-ecame intimate friends. I suppose that Koulikoff 

had expected A would forge the passports ; 

besides, the latter was a gentleman by birth, and had 
moved in good society, all which would give an addi- 
tional zest to their adventures, if only they could get 
safely to Russia. Koulikoflf was a }x)rn actor, who 
might have played any role to perfection. The next 
step was to find an escort who was willing to escape 
with them, as it is impossible to run away without 
the escort. They soon found the man they wanted. 
There served in one of the battalions which were in 
garrii»pn in the fortress a man of remarkable energy 
and talents, who deserved a better fate. He was a 


Pole by birth, a grave-looking, stately soldier. In 
his youth he had come to Siberia with his regiment ; 
but his heart yearned for his distant country ; he pined 
away, and finally deserted from his regiment and 
tried to make his way back to Poland. He was 
caught, punished, and sent for two years to a refor- 
matory battalion. When he came back to his regi- 
ment after the expiration of his sentence, he was a 
changed man ; he became a most zealous soldier, and 
was made a corporal for his good behaviour. He was 
a very ambitious man, and had a high opinion of 
himself. His name was KoUer. I had occasionally 
seen him among our escorts, and the Poles had told 
me his history. 

Everything was arranged for the flight, and the 
day fixed. It was in June. The climate is pretty 
constant in this part of Siberia, the summers are 
hot, and it seldom rains. This is just the weather 
for vagabonds. It stands to reason that they could 
not run away straight from the prison, as th^ town 
stands on a plain, and there are no woods near, so 
that they might easily have been discovered unless 
they changed their dress. Koulikoff had had every- 
thing prepared beforehand in the house of •seme 
finends of his who lived in the suburbs. I do not 
know whether his friends were let into the secret, as 
this point was never fully elucidated at-the^t^ial» 
There lived also in the said suburbs a young lady on 
whom Koulikoff had been spending a small for- 
tune for the last year, who rejoiced in the euphonious 
name of Van^ka Tan'ka, aliaa ^ Firebrand,' and who 
seemed to have known something about the proceed- 



iii^'-. Tin- «\)n. -pi raters tinned out as usual wlin; 
l:.'.' r<'ll U.I' t .i:l'-«l ii] tin' moruin^-, and inaua^;r«l <*• 
il' vf-rlv thrtt th.v wrn- -cut with tlu- ccmvict Sliilkinc. 
a nuiMjii l.v Tr:i'!«-. to work in soino (Mnpty liarracks, 
tl.- S(>Mi»r- liavin;r for tlu'ir suinTucr (piarter.s. 
The wall* ''f tluj liarrarks IkuI to lie stucc-o<Kl afresh^ 

ainl A and Konli'kotT were to help Sliilkine in 

hi- wc.rk. Kolhr was chosen to e>o«»rt. tliem, and, as < 

l: rr>t.' cunvicts couM nnt [to out witliout heini»: es- 
f- rt'-d I V two r-ildier.-. lv«.»ll«*r wasriitrusted with tin 
cl. iriT'* <''f a raw v«)nnir ncrnif . who was ordered to ae- , 

company tlieni that ht. mii^ht he instructed i»y Koller ^ 

iii the duri-- of an i-scort. it i> difficult to understand 
wL:ii coiiM }i;iv»* mad*- tliis elt?V(»r. th(>u;^-htful. e.\j)e- 
riviiced rll .s-»ldier, wlio was the favourit(» of liij; 
."•iptiinr-. join tlie two uk-u ii] their desp«'rat«' enter- 
prise. Tiiey T!iu>t havtf had a L^reat infUnnice over 
him ! 

NVJi'-n rliL-v i^ot t.» the ]»arracks it was G a.m., 
and ther'.^ was nohotlv tjjere but themselves. After 
workiniT tor ahout an hour, the conspirators told. 
Shilkine that tliey mri-t go ])ack to the worksliop, as 
tbt^y had ua'dde an appointment to meet some one 
there, and I resides they wanted to fetch an instru- 
ment wliich th-'V had for^rotten to brini»*. Thev had 
to be very cautious as to what they told him, for 
Shilkine was a shrewd fellow who might easily have 
suspected mischief. He was a ^loscovite by birth ; 
and, as I have said before, a potter and mason by 
trade. He was such a puuy-looking, miserable 
wretch that one could not help wondering what on 
earth be could have done to deserve such a fate, for 


he was in tlie Special Depai-tment. I caonot tell 
what crime ha had committed ; he was vejy quiet 
and peaceful, and, though he got drunk occasionally, 
he always even at such times behaved with great 
propriety. Koulikoff took the precaution of dropping 
a hint that they might perhaps also bring a certain 
bottle of brandy which they had hidden in the 
workshop. This touched Shilkine's heart, and he 
let them go, and remained alone with liis recruit, 

while Koulikoff, A , and KoUer made for the 


When half an hour had elapsed and nobody re- 
appeared, Shilkine began to suspect mischief. He 
remembered that Koulikoff had seemed excited, that 

A had whispered something to him once or 

twice, and that Koulikoff had winked at him. Then 
KoUer, too, had behaved in rather an unusual way. 
Before leaving he had given the young recruit a few 
directions about what he was to do in his absence, 
and that was a thing Koller would hardly have 
done if he had only gone away for half an hour. 
The more he thought about it all, the more his sus- 
picions increased. Hour after hour passed and they 
did not come. The poor fellow was in a terrible 
state of anxiety, for he knew that, naturally enough, 
he would at once be accused of having connived at 
their escape, especially if he hesitated any longer to 
give the alarm. He blid no time to lose. He re- 
membered that Koulikoff and A seemed to have 

become very intimate of late ; he had frequently seen 
th«n whispering together in the courtyard; there 
could hardly be any doubts left as to their having 


escaped. He looked inquiringly at liis escort; but 
the vounir ?ol«lier sto.Ml Irani nj' on bis nrmsket and 
juwTiing witli snch a .-tolid expression of countenance 
that lie did not uven take the trouble to cominuniciite 
hi> fears to bim, but merely asked him to follow him 
to the workshoj*. He tried to persuade himself that 
they might still be there, but nol)ody had seen them. 
Once the thouglit crossed his mind that they might 
havr <^oue otT to some tavern in the suburbs, as 
KMulik<.»ff had W«fn in tiie luibit of doing lately ; but 
he dismissed it as wholly improbable, for in that 
cait; they would have told him, there l>eing no 
obviou? re;is«jn why they should Jiavo kept it con- 
c*raled from him. .So Shilkine left his work and 
went straight to the prison to give the alarm. It 
was n-arlv nine o'ch^ck wlien he told the scrireant-at- 
arms what had liappened. The sergeant would not 
believr- him at first, ;in«l then rushed off in hot baste 
to the Major, who in his turn hastened to report the 
event to tlie C« »mman<laut. A (juarter of an hour later 
all the neces>ary steps had l^een taken to pursue the 
tusritives. Even the Governor-General was informed 
of the occurrence, as two of the men were important 
criminals, and if the news of the escape reached St. 
Petersburg the Government would certainly be very 

much displeased, A was reckoned among the 

pc»litical criminals, why I know not; and Koulikoff 
belonged to the Special Department — that is to 
gay, he was an arch-malefactor and military prisoner. 
This was the first time since the Special Department 
existed that any one had escaped from it, and it sud- 
denly occurred to some one that the regulation which 


•demanded that every prisoner of the Special Depart- 
ment should have an escort of two soldiers, or one 
at least, had of late been very much neglected. 
All this miglit have very disagreeable consequences. 
Couriers were despatched to every town and place 
in the neighbourhood to give the alarm, and leave 
the description of the fugitives ; Cossacks were sent 
in pursuit — in a word, our governors were terribly 

Meanwhile the news had spread like wildfire in 
the prison, and was received with great glee by the 
convicts, who liailed it as a welcome diversion in 
their monotonous life. Such an event was sure to 
find an echo in each soul, and to waken memories 
and thoughts that had long been slumbering in some 
forgotten corner. If these men had escaped, why 
should not others run away? A sudden change 
seemed to have come over the prisoners; they 
walked more erect than usual, and began to look 
down upon the subs. The Governor, accompanied 
by his staff, presently arrived in the prison. The 
men received him with a certain superciliousness, as 
if they wished to impress upon him that they might 
have run away every one of them if only they had 
been so disposed. They had expected this visit, and 
taken good care to hide anything that might awaken 
suspicion. There was a great deal of bustling about 
and hunting for forbidden articles; the oflScers looked 
everywhere and found — nothing. We went to our 
afternoon work with a double escort; and at night when 
we were locked up in our rooms the warders kept pop- 
ping in and out to make sure that we were all there. 

34»> nriUKi) ALIVE, 

Tl:*' roll wa- rallt-'l tuiiv ovtM* in our colls, and each 
tiiiu* tli« :•• \v:i- a t'p-h uu^lako mado : then wo won* 
uW t!iiii.i| (HI? into tIkj vani, and Uh' nil) calltMl 
a;^tiii, tiii- tinn- uitlioijt a mistake*. Thon wo woro 
all comiN-.l a t'ourth tinu' in our colls. In a word, 
oiir |KM»r wardiM- ijave tliomsolvos a g'reat deal of 
netMlK*-* t roidiit*. 

Tin- ^-'iiN i«l prisoner- affoctod ratlior a supercilious 
d -!!!• ah'r.r. aii«l. a- i- i,''-ni rally tlipcasoat sucli timos, 
t»' • -W'A • \rrt:..tiv w.ll all ni'lit. so thai il. was iin- 
p.--il»]»' i'» liiid fault witli tiimi. Nalurally enough 
our (f««\» riior -u^[»»ctr.i th«* fugitives of havinii^ allies 
in till' pri-nn. and oiu' warders had Iwen diroctc»<l to 
kt-ep tilt ir ♦'Ves and «*ars w(4l open in case, they 
rni.'hr «li' ■ \>-r >«.nh* chio a> to their wheroal)outs. 
All rli'-' j»r«« I'lti.iiis ni-ly atiordo*! tin* convicts in- 

• I .-'.;|»5>'.-t/ th-y til ink that people who intend to 
run awav li-av.' w«.rd wliere th(»v are to he found.' 

' Di«l t}).v t'XDtct tli«'m to ask th(?ir Ksave?' 

• .Sur-ly U>Th thost- chaps, Kouh'kotf and A ., 

kn«'W how to manaire their husiness well enouGfh. 
TLev h:iv»- i:ont.' throuifh tire and water in their 
live? ; why sb'mld they not pass througli locked 
doi^rs ? ' 

In sii'at. Koulikott and A suddenly hecame 

great hen>:-« in the evtr? of the rest : we were proud 
of having had such men among us. It was uni- 
versally believed that their deed was unprecedented 
in the annals of the prison, and that it would survive 
long after the prison had ceased to exist. 

' Clever chaps ! ' remarked some. 


*And people think tliat nobody ever escaped 
from our prison ! I wonder what they will say when 
they hear of this ! ' added another. 

* Escaped !' cried a third, glancing contemptuously 
at the second speaker, ' who has escaped ? Not you^ 
I expect I ' 

At any other time the convict who was thus, 
ignominiously snubbed would have resented the in- 
jury, and a brawl would have been the immediate 
consequ<'nce ; but to-night he held his tongue, and 
contented liimself with remarking modestly that 
after all everybody was not like Koulikoff and A . 

' What are we doing here, my brothers ? ' suddenly 
remarked in a singsong voice a fourth, who was 
sitting in a corner by the kitchen window leaning 
his head on his hand. 'What are we doing here in 
this deiid-alive place ? E-e-ekh ! ' 

* Do you think escaping from prison is as easily 
done as taking off one's shoes ? E-e-ekh ! ' (mimick- 
ing him). 

' But if KoulikoflF has run away ' impru- 
dently remarks an impetuous youth. 

* Koulikoff ! ' interrupts another, with a wither- 
ing look at the impetuous youth; 'Koulikoff!* 
That is to say, 'Are there many Koulikoffs in this, 

' And A is a knowing chap too, my brethren.* 

' I should think so. Koulikoff is like wax in his- 

* I wonder how far they have got by this time ? ' 
And forthwith they begin to speculate how far 

they have got. In what direction? Which way 

348 iiURIED AUVE. 

vTMilfl In? ih' -^afci^t to take? and so on. It so hap- 
pen* d th;i* >«:ii'* «>f tlw rnon knew the country all 
arouini jin-lty wr*ll : tiiry relulod tlieir piist expe- 
ri'-ncf.-, and \\> re li-tonod to eagerly. They agreed 
unanimMi>lv a- to the inliahitants of the ueiirhbour- 
inu: towu^ and villages being covetous and avaricious, 
who would not hesitate a moment to catch a |ioor 
convict and ikliver him up to the magistrates. 

' TIk y aiv a had lot all ahout here, my brethren — 
ft v%-r«'toti»'d -et I ' 

• I) d cms I ' 

•" Its no j«»ke to fall into tlie hands of a Siberian 
p-.-a.-ant. I can ti;ll you. They'll kill you Ixifore you 
know whvp* V. .11 arc' 

' Tli'-y will havi- hard work to catch our fellows ! ' 

• \V»:11, We'll hear all about it if we live long 


• 1)«.» v.. 11 ni'-an to ^ay that you think they'll catch 
i::em ? ' 

•I d-nt think that they will ever be caught in 
this life I' sh..uis anutht-r, striking the table with 
his fi=t. 

' H'm, we'll see, we'll see.' 

• Don't you think, my brothers,' suddenly inter- 
rupts SkouratotT, • that it would be a tough job to 
catch me if I were a vagabond ? ' 

Some of the men laugh, while others turn away 
as if disgu^ited with his levity. But all this is lost 
upon Skouratod*, whom nothing can stop when he is 
once fairly launched. 

' They'd never catch me in this life ! ' he repeats 


with greater energy than before. *I would- rather 
squeeze through a keyhole than be caught.' '^: 

* Wait till you get hungry, and then you will go 
quick enough to some peasant and ask for bread.' 

All laugh. 

* Ask for bread ? Not 1 1 ' 

* We know better. You have come here for kill- 
ing the cow's death,* together with your uncle Vass'ka^ 
have you not ? ' 

The hilarity becomes uproarious. The more 
serious convicts look on with infinite disgust. 

*You lie!' shrieks Skourdtoff. *Mikitka has 
been telling tales about me — that is, not about me, 
but about Vass'ka, and you have mixed us both 
up. I have been bom and bred a vagabond. I am a 
Muscovite by birth. I remember, when I was a boy 
and went to school, the dyatchok^ used to pull me 
by Jthe ears to make me remember the prayer, 
"Have mercy on me, Lord, for Thy infinite 
goodness' sake,'' and so on; and I would repeat after 
him, " Send me to prison for Thy great goodness' 
sake," and so on. That's what I did when I was a 

Skour^toflF's reminiscences of his boyhood were 
received with another shout of laughter, to his in- 
finite satisfaction. But this was no time for jesting. 
The older and more experienced men were talking 
the great event over gravely among themselves, while 
the younger and more inexperienced crowded round 

> I.e. he has killed a peasant who has been accused of bewitching 
eows and oxen. 

' Clerk of a church, who frequently keeps a sniall school. 


t]u*m listt^nin;^ in deferential silence. Almost all the 
I»ri-oiitr> h:nl a-?ernl»ltMl in tlie kitdion. Fortunately 
th'-re wvn* u«> >iil)s pri'SfMit, else tlh.*y would have 
hiiftlly «lan-d t'» sj^xMk tlieir minds freely. Among 
th»^ many ««a^^r face? I especially noticed M.imetka's. 
He wa? Tartar by birth — a short, bony, queer-looking 
ftrll«>\v, wlio understood little or no llussian ; but 
there lie wa> in the crowd, pressing forward 
t:i_r»'rly to li,-ten to what was being s;iid. Skounitoff, 
^^L•» to hi? crreat trri^'f had l>et»n obJiLrefl to be silent 
i-vau>e n-ibodv would attend to him, could not resist 
the temptiition of teasing him. 'Well, Mametka, 
v;ik-hi ? ' 

• Vak-hi, yakshi I ' murmured Mametka, grinning 

wi-h O'/.iu'ht ami nodding his head at Skouratoff, 
\ 1 ■ * 

v.; rC.-'lil. 

• Will Th.'V catch them ? Yok? ' 

• V"k. yok.* cliattered Mametka, gesticulating 

' Six of oiie ami lialf-a-dozen of the other. Ain't 
it ?o. "Id f»-llu'»v ? ■ 

• ^'t'f. v»5. Vak>bi.* nodding his head a^jain. 
'Y.ikrlii. Wik-sliil' laughed Skouratoff, knocking 

Maine- ka\ cap over his eyes, and walking out of the 
kir.ciien in a l:ighly elated frame of mind, leaving 
Mam«'ika very much a.-tonished at the imexpected 
tiirn their eonvr rsation liad taken. 

A whole Week passed without our hearing any- 
thing of the fugitives. We were guarded and watched 
over with the greatest care. All the peasants in the 
ueighl>ouring districts had been put to requisition, 
<rvery swamp and wood where they might be hidden 


Mras carefully searched — ^but in vain. The convicts 
were perfectly well informed of all the steps that 
liad been taken by the local government to trace 
the fugitives, and it was a mystery to me in what 
way the infoimation was conveyed to the prison. 

All fears and doubts concerning the fate of A 

and KoulikoflF had vanished. *They won't catch 
them,' the men would say with a self-satisfied smile. 
' Catch them ? Not they ! ' 

' Farewell, I shall come again soon ! ' 

* I suppose they have found a hiding-place some- 
where,' remarked some one. 

* Certainly,' affirmed another. ' You may be sure 
that they had prepared everything before they left.' 

Others suggested that the fugitives might be even 
hidden somewhere in a cellar in some house in the 
suburbs, biding their time, and waiting till the alarm 
had subsided and their hair had grown. They might 
stay there for six months, a year even, and then go 
ofiF. In a word, the most romantic stories about all 
sorts of probable and improbable hiding-places were 
circulated and believed by the convicts, when sud- 
denly, on the eighth day, the rumour spread that the 
pursuers had come upon their track. This was natu- 
rally repudiated with great scorn. But the very same 
night the rumour was confirmed, and the convicts 
began to grow uneasy. The next day it was said in 
the town that they had been caught, and were now 
<in their way back to the prison. In the afternoon 
we learnt the particulars of their capture. They 
had been caught in a village about seventy versts 
from the town. Then the sergeant was summoned 


to the Major, an<l on liis return he informed us oflR- 
cially tlhit thfv woulci arrivo this very evening, .ind 
Ih? t;iken >traijht to the guard-room. 

It i? difticult to define the impression which this 
intelligence pr«Mliirod. At first the convicts were 
downrii^ht angry with the fugitives, then they seemed 
cast down for a time, and finally manifested a strong 
inclination to scoff at them. One or two ventured a 
few j^aroastic remarks, and the rest followed their 
txampl'^. with the exception of a few strong-minded 
men who had the courage to think for themselves, 
and wliM looked on in silent disgust. 

If Koiilikoff and A liad ranked highest in 

the e^r♦-Hra of tlioir fellow-prisoners only a short time 
a;::*^, th'.^y had svmk very low now. It was related 
witli >com that they had l)een driven by hunger 
to a?-k tV.r l»r«*ad in a village, which, I must remark 
here, is C'»nrid^redan act of cowardice unwoi-thy even 
of a vai^abond. This tale, however, soon turned out 
to l»e faU^. The fugitives had been tracked to a 
wood, which ha<l l>een surrounded by people, where- 
upon they >urrendered themselves, as it was impos- 
sible to e.-caj>e. 

^Vhen at lai^t, towards nightfall, they arrived^ 
l>ound hand and foot and escorted by mounted 
soldiers, we all rushed to the fence to look through 
the chinks and see what was going to happen. But 
we were disappointed, as nothing could be seen except 
the Major's and the Commandant's carriages standing 
at the door of the guard-room. The fugitives were 
immediately locked up, and brought up for trial the 
next day. When it became known that they had 


been obliged to surrender themselves to thif^ir captors, 
the convicts relented iii their feeling^ tpwards the 
culprits, and followed the trial with great interest. 

* They'll get a thousand apiece,' asserted one. 

* Only a thousand ! They'll kill them for sure. 

A may perhaps be let off with a paltry thousand 

strokes ; but they'll kill the others, for they are of 
the Special Department/ 

But they were mistaken. A was sentenced 

only to five hundred strokes. His former good con- 
duct was taken into consideration, and the doctors 
interceded for him. Koulikoff was sentenced to 
fifteen hundred strokes. They were punished less 
severely than might have been expected. It was 
said that they gave very clear and satisfactory answers 
at their trial, implicating no one. I felt especially 
sorry for KoUer, poor fellow. He Lad ruined all his 
prospects in life for ever ; was sentenced to two thou- 
sand strokes, and sent away to sonie distant ^prison. 

A bragged very much about his de^ in the 

hospital, and informed everybody that he was quite 
ready to do it again. Koulikoff was as dignified as 
usual, and when he came back to the prison after the 
flogging he looked and behaved as if he had never 
left it. But the convicts were of a different opinion, 
and, in spite of his dignified nianner, respectisd him 
less than they had done before his escapade. He was 
no longer a hero in their eyes. What is it to be suc- 
cessful in this world ! 

A A 

r.O-l hVlilhh AUVSL 


I li:avi: tjik PKii?oN. 

TiiL incidents whicli I have related in the last chap- 
ter occunvd durin;r the last year of my captivity. In 
I'K'kinj^ Kick upon this time now it seems to me as 
if. nf all those dreary ten years, the first and the last 
h.^1 V>eeu the most remarkable, so clearly do I re- 
Tnrnltcr every trifling incident which liapjiened in 
Ti.. m. In spite of my intense desire to be free once 
ni 're I began to find my life much less hard than it 
lirni be^n during the previous years. In the first 
place, I had succeeded at last in making friends with 
several convict?, who had finally arrived at the con- 
clusion that I was not a bad man. Some of them 
W''i>* even sincerely attached to me — e.g. the pioneer, 
\f'?iO nearly cried when my comrade and I left the 
niison. We had to remain in the town for another 
irionth before leaving the place altogether, and hardly 
a day passed without his coming to call on us, just 
t > take a look at us, as he used to say. Others, it is 
true, remained cold and repellent to the very last, 
and hardly ever exchanged a word with me. 

In the second place, I enjoyed more liberty during 
this memorable last year. I found out, by a mere 


chance, that some of my old schoolfellows were among 
the officers who were in garrison in the town, I re- 
newed our acquaintance, and they helped me to the 
utmost of their power, I had more money at my 
disposal, was able to write to my friends once more, 
and, what was the greatest boon of all, they gave me 
books to read. I had been denied that pleasure for 
many years, and it is difficult to describe the mixed 
sensation of joy and bitterness with which I read the 
first book. It happened to be an odd number of 
some magazine. I remember sitting down to read it 
one evening, after we had been locked in for the 
night, and never stopping till the day dawned and 
the rSveiUe was sounded at the gates. I felt as if a 
message had been sent me from another world ; my 
past life rose clearly and vividly before me, and I 
could not help asking myself wonderingly whether I 
was still the same as before ? What were they doing 
now in the world ? What new interests and leading 
questions had sprung up since I had left it? I 
pondered over each word, trying to read between 
the lines some mysterious hints about old times, or 
to find some traces at least of the questions that had 
interested the world in my days. In vain ; I had 
become a stranger to this present world, I no longer 
had a right to claim fellowship with my own genera- 
tion. I remember especially devouring eagerly one 
paper which was signed in a name which I well knew, 
the bearer of which had many years ago been very 
dear to my heart. 

But I did not meet with many old friends in my 
reading. New names had supplanted the old ones, 


new actors Lad come upon tlie tstajj^e ; and a>* I liasfened 
t" Ix^cnme :ief]U;iint«Ml with tliein I conld not lielp 
fttlini^ vexed that mv supply of ])Ooks must neces- 
sarilv be a verv limito^J one, and I should have so much 
trouble in n:ettin«: even tliose few. Still, I ought to 
have been thankful for the opportunities which were 
thus afforded me to still the craving of my soul for 
fi-wKi, as in the reign of our old Major it would have 
b»*'/n well-nigh im|X)ssil)le to smuggle books into the 
pri-on. And even if I had succeeded in smuggling 
th'?in in. the chances wei'e ten to one that they might 
have lieen discovered, and there would have been no 
end to the questi«.>ns and suspicions as to where the 
bo'.^ks had come from, who h<ad given them to me, 
with whom I was in correspondence, etc. And then, 
fo-r nine long years living without books, I felt my 
inner life grow deeper, while I tried to answer innu- 
merable questions that were constantly springing up 

in my mind ; but it is impossible to attempt to 

describe or even analyse such feelings — they can only 
be experienced, not described. 

I had arrived at the convict prison in winter, and 
wa5 to leave it accordingly on the same day of the 
same month. How impatiently I watched for the 
approach of the cold season ! With what joy I hailed 
the first signs of autumn, when the leaves on the trees 
began to fade and wither, and the grass of the steppe 
grew yellow I The autumn winds whistled round our 
prison ; then the first snow fell, and the much-longed- 
for winter had come at last. My heart beat quicker 
at the thought that the moment which I had been 
longing for for many years, and picturing to myself 



■v-cVi-'"'-' '» ■ 

in different ways, was drawing near at last. And 
yet, instead of feeling impatient at the long delay, 
I seemed to grow more and more patient as the time 
of my release drew near, and I frequently reproached 
myself for my indiCFerence. Often when I was walk- 
ing in the yard, other convicts would come up to 
me and congratulate me. 

' So you are going to leave us soon. Father Alex- 
ander Petrovitch ? We shall feel quite lonely with- 
out you.' 

* But you will soon be going too, Martynoif ? ' I 

' I ? Oh, yes ; in seven years or more ! ' And 
the poor fellow sighed, and there was a wistful ex- 
pression in his eyes, as if he tried to pierce the veil 
which hid the future from him. 

Yes, many of my fellow-convicts wished me joy 
heaHily and sincerely; and it seemed to me as if 
almost every one grew more friendly and affable to- 
wards me. I was no longer their comr^e, the 
drudge on whom they had vented their ill-humour, 
but a gentleman who was going io leave them soon, 

and they behaved accordingly. K , a Polish 

nobleman, a quiet and gentle young man, who, like 
myself, was very fond of walking in the yard, hoping 
to counteract by exercise and fresh air the injurious 
effect of the bad air in the prison, met me one day as 
we were both taking our constitutional. 

/I am quite impatient to see you go away,* said 
he to me with a smile, < for I shall know then that I 
shall have to stay here only for another year.' 

Let me remark here that in the minds of the 


convicts the idea of freedom is apt to be magnified 
t<» tljf verv lit most. A ra;;irt*d officer's servant is to 
tliein tiie ideal of a free man compared with them, 
bfcaii?e he i:? free to go al)0ut imshaved, without an 
e?cort, and ini fettered. 

On the eve of my departure I walked for the last 
time round our yard. How many thousand times had 
I wearily dragged myself along the fence ! Behind 
those barracks I had wandered about during the first 
vear of mv captivitv alone, and almost ]>eside mvself 
with grief. I remembered my then counting liow many 
thousands of days I would still have to remain there. 
How very distant that time seemed to me now ! Here, 
in this comer, lived our poor eagle, and that was the 
spot where Pet ruff used often to meet me. He still 
cluni,' to me, and would frequently appear suddenly 
Ijefore me, and, as if he guessed my thoughts, walk 
silently Ijy my side with a look of placid astonishment 
on his face. I said farewell to the dingy prison walls 
in mv heart, and as I remembered with a shudder 


the terrible impression which they had wrought on 
me when I l»eheld them for the first time, I thought 
of all the young lives and gifted minds that were 
dying slowly behind them. Early the next morn- 
ing, before the convicts went to their work, I paid 
a farewell call to all the cells to bid good-bye to my 
old fellow-prisoners. Many a hard- worked rough 
hand was stretched out to grasp mine in friendly 
greeting. A few shook hands with me as they would 
with one of their own class, while others hung back 
and hardly dared to touch my proffered hand. They 
remembered that I was no lonirer their fellow- 



prisoner, but a gentleman, and that the moment I 
left the prison I should once more take my place 
among the ' quality ' of the town. There was an 
undertone of respect in their farewell greeting more 
like that of a servant bidding good-bye to his master 
than that of a comrade parting from his fellow. 
Others turned away, and did not deign to answer 
me ; while some scowled at me still with undisguised 

The drum beat, and they all went off to their 
work except ourselves, Soushilofif had got up very 
early that morning to get me some tea. Poor Sou- 
shiloffl he burst into tears when I gave him my 
shirts, a few other trifles, and a little money. 

* I don't want anything,' said he, trying very hard 
to master his emotion ; ' I was thinking what is to 
become of me when you are gone, Alexander Petro- 
vitch. I shall be so lonely without you I ' 

I said farewell to Akim Akimytch for the last 

^ You will be soon free, too,' said I to him. 

^ Oh, no, no, no,' murmured he, pressing my hand, 
* I shall have to stay here a good while yet.' I threw 
my arms round his neck, and we kissed each other. 

Ten minutes after the convicts had left the prison 
we also left it— my comrade with whom I had come 
here and I — never to return any more. First of all 
we had to go to the forge to have our chains taken off. 
But this time no soldier accompanied us with his 
loaded gun. A sergeant-at-arms led the way. Our 
own fellow-prisoners took off our chains in the en- 
gineer's workshop. I let my comrade go first, and 

.'A I 


then wont \ip to the ;invil. Tlio mon tiirnod !n<* 
rotin'l witli iiiv l»:it'k t«» tliem, ami liftiuir luv Wi^ 
thev plaoui it on tlie anvil. Thov won* <»a''('r to do 
their lu'st, p»or fellow ;i! 

* Turn that rivet fir-t of all/ commanded tlie 
bead man. * Put it this way. And now hammer 

My chains fcdl off! I picked them up. I longed 
to hold them once more in mv hands, and look at 
them for thf last time. I c«»nltl hardlv realise that 
thev had lieen on mv foet onlv a moment ajjo. 

* God ble>.s you I God blesr; you ! ' said the con- 
victs <jrufflv, but not unkindlv. 

Av, mav G(m1 bless mv iroin<; oiit f»nee more into 
the wide, free world I Lib»^rtv! (Jlorious sound I 
I am free once m«nvl J have ris'Mi from the dead! 

[The eilitor of the Meinoii s of the late Alexander Petio- 
viteh Uonantcbikfitf consi«lers it liis diitv to sjiv a few 
wonls hei-e on the jsuhject of a young parricide of whom 
mention was made iu the iirst chapter of these Memoirs. 
It will be it^memlsered that he was quoted as an example 
of the calloiL^uess with which convicts speak of their 
crimes. It was also said, that in spite of the strong evidence 
for hisfruilt, he persisted in maint«iining that he was inno- 
cent of the crime imputed to him; and that he was in ex- 
cellent spirits during the whole time of his imprisonment, 
and never showed the slightest sign of repentance for his 
deed. The author remarks : * I could not bring myself to 
believe that be was i-eally guilty.* 

A few days ago the editor received the intelligence 
from Siberia that the young man had been found guilty 

w i 



of a crime of which he was innocent. The real criminals 
had been discovered and confessed their guilt, and the 
unfortunate victim had been set free at once. 

Such facts speak for themselves. It would be needless 
to comment any further on this tragedy of a life crushed 
in its prime under the weight of such a terrible accussi- 
tion. We think that the mere fact of such an injustice 
being possible is perhaps one of the most characteristic 
traits of the picture we have been endeavouring to paint 
of the life of those who are buried alive.] 



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